Innovation to shape food industry’s future

By Michael Stones

- Last updated on GMT

It's health o'clock: innovation will help firms exploit three key trends
It's health o'clock: innovation will help firms exploit three key trends

Related tags Food supply chain Food

Innovation is likely to shape the future of the future industry in a market dominated by lack of growth, price pressure from food retailers and changing consumer behaviour, according to a new report from Rabobank.

New technologies and innovations – including 3D printed food, algae and insects as a form of protein, wearable technology and smart shopping tools – had the potential to radically change the food supply chain in the very near future.

Rabobank analyst Jelle Groot explained how food and drink manufacturers could use innovation as a key to unlock growth. “Traditionally static consumption patterns have undergone a transformation and we believe there are now three prevalent consumer mind-sets for food buying: sustainability, convenience and health,”​ said Groot.

‘A game-changing effect’

“Understanding these mind-sets and using appropriate innovations could not only have a game-changing effect on food processors' businesses, but will be essential to remain relevant in a highly competitive environment.”

The trend towards sustainable diets was already focusing attention on alternative meat ingredients, as concerns mounted about feeding the growing global population with limited natural resources. Promising alternative ingredients – such as macro-algae (or seaweed), micro-algae and insects – all offered environmental advantages. But they faced the challenges of increasing production, cost competitiveness and consumer acceptance.

Three trends where innovation will help

  • Sustainability
  • Convenience
  • Health

“Significant research and development, marketing and promotional efforts by food companies will be required to develop products with these novel ingredients at a price level consumers will pay,”​ said Rabobank.

The convenience trend reflected the growth of online food shopping over the next 20 years. New technologies will enable retailers to deliver an “augmented”​ shopping experience, helping firms engage with customers through personalised offers and product suggestions to fit with diet and lifestyle.

Health-conscious consumers wanted to understand what their bodies needed, and to eat accordingly. Wearable technology and self-tracking apps were already on the market to help consumers quantify and track data on their lives, including calories consumed.

3D printed food

The new innovation conference will take place on Friday June 26, 2015.

“New technologies in this category will facilitate personalised diets and customised food,”​ said Rabobank. “This will include 3D printed food that can be personalised with respect to nutritional values and ingredients, as well as flavour, texture and size. Hand-held food scanners allowing users to get the nutritional values of food also looks set to rise in popularity. However, this will lead to food companies being challenged to deliver more consistent quality.”

While exploiting these trends came at a cost, and may bring uncertain results, using innovations that tap into consumer megatrends can help processors find pockets of growth, said the researchers.

More information is available in Rabobank’s report What's cooking in tomorrow's kitchen?

Meanwhile, food and drink innovation is the theme of a new one-day conference exploring how businesses can harness innovation to benefit their bottom line.

The event – New Frontiers in Food and drink​: putting innovation on a plate – will take place at Etc.venues St Pauls, 200 Aldergate, London on Friday June 26, 2015. Taking part will be food futurologist Dr Morgaine Gaye, Charles Spence, professor of experimental psychology, University of Oxford and professor Arnold van Huis from the Laboratory of Entomology at Wageningen University, Netherlands.

More information – including early bird ticket price offer – is available here​.   

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