The future of the food industry will likely be made to order as consumers are starting to turn towards personalized nutrition for their dietary needs. In addition, the conscious consumption trend will also shape the way food will be produced in the next few years as more consumers look for eco-friendly and sustainable meal options.
At the Hartman Group’s Food Culture Forecast 2018 summit, Davey McHenry, Vice President of Consulting Services at The Hartman Group, discussed the importance of transparency and customization in the food space. According to McHenry, the rise of technology has led to an empowered and research savvy consumer, which means that consumer trust is of utmost importance for food companies. Now that consumers are more aware of the environmental impacts of certain food manufacturing processes, food companies need to be transparent with their food production methods because consumers do their research. With sustainability being a top priority for shoppers, food companies can leverage this trend by being transparent and investing in sustainable practices that will likely appeal to conscious consumers.
“This overarching trend toward mindfulness that we see in health and wellness has enabled consumers to ask meaningful questions about the origins of food,” McHenry said. “‘What’s in it? How was it made? Who made it?’ What we’re seeing more and more is there is another layer that is coming into consideration, which is, ‘how was it grown?’”
McHenry went on to talk about consumer concerns in terms of soil health and its impact on the quality of food that is grown in it. Pollution and waste are also important factors to consider when producing consumer-targeted food items.
“A willingness to investigate combined with the ease of doing so means Gen Z will likely value transparency even more,” McHenry said. “Nine in 10 consumers globally rate ingredient transparency as important or very important for companies to address.”
Now that consumers have access to unlimited information from the internet, they are able to find food products that meet their specific preferences. McHenry advised food manufacturers to be “nimble, innovative and strategic” when it comes to following food trends. Due to the fact that trends are always evolving, food companies need to anticipate future trends from current ones. For example, the organic produce trend has evolved to include the quality of soil used to grow such organic produce. Annie’s organic mac and cheese has already started marketing a “Soil Matters” campaign and they launched limited edition “Soil Matters” packaging for their products.
“The rate of change in the food industry is messier and accelerating faster than ever before,” said McHenry. “To be successful, companies have to be able to anticipate and adapt to this new world order… Perhaps the business model you use to measure success no longer works because it’s not business as usual.”
Consumers evolve along with trends, which means that there is no singular solution for marketing to them. However, if food companies invest in consumer research and produce innovative products that incorporate consumer values as well as product preferences, they will be able to stay ahead of trends and stay relevant.
“You can’t be everything to everyone. You can’t tackle everything,” said McHenry. “So, what is that thing that is going to help you carve out that niche in the marketplace and continue to be relevant to consumers in the future?”