Lord Christopher Haskins, former boss of Northern Foods and adviser to the government on rural development, has predicted that multiple supermarkets and processors will be superseded by smaller, more innovative and financially agile companies within 20 years.
Giving a keynote address to an international conference on food in Dublin, Haskins said: "Large supermarkets in 20 years time will have had their day." He put this down to their bureaucracy and "risk averse" nature. Multiples, he said, are likely to become warehouse operators within which individual food categories would be managed by others.
"They [multiples] are very, very good at property. They may franchise [product management] out to small processors and retailers."
Haskins also predicted a similar fate for large food manufacturers.
"You had to be large to afford the technology in the past. Small businesses did not have access to money and technology. But this has all changed," he said. "Small businesses have the ability to innovate and take risk."
In contrast, big companies are increasingly concerned about their brands and image and are dogged by fears of being sued, said Haskins.
Meanwhile, food suppliers might get a clearer idea of future business opportunities with Marks and Spencer when the retailer's incoming chief executive Stuart Rose outlines a new strategy on July 12, just ahead of the company's annual general meeting on July 14.