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What does the future have in store for the food and drink industry? In this blog post, we’ll be covering some of the top trends, from the up and coming technology in the food and beverage industry to what today’s consumers expect.

  1. Sustainable practices and mindset
  2. Healthier alternatives to sugar
  3. Functional food
  4. More robust allergen and quality management processes
  5. A stable supply chain
  6. Automation
  7. Waste reduction

Top consumer trends

1. Sustainable practices and mindset

Future of food

With climate change being a hotter topic than ever before, more consumers are striving to support businesses who adopt a sustainable mindset (and shunning those who don’t). Ingredients and packaging provenance are now becoming as vital as the quality of the product. So, consider how your business can follow responsible ingredient sourcing practices and make moves to reduce plastic packaging.

For example, in January 2020, Nestlé vowed to lead the shift from virgin plastics to recycled plastics and develop sustainable packaging. This supports their goal to make all of their packaging recyclable or reusable by 2025.

PepsiCo is another example - the drink manufacturer is aiming to eliminate all virgin plastic from their branded bottles sold in nine European countries by 2022.

As for more responsible ingredient sourcing practices, why not take inspiration from these sustainable food businesses?

2. Healthier alternatives to sugar

Sustainability isn’t the only thing that’s been on the modern-day consumer’s mind. They’re also becoming increasingly concerned about their daily sugar intake. This consumer trend is leading some manufacturers to reformulate by-products, even those which may have traditionally been seen as waste.

For example, Nestlé (ever the leader in driving sustainable manufacturing practices) replaced refined sugar with cocoa pulp. It’s a natural sweetener that doesn’t impact taste, texture or quality and helps reduce waste. Two birds, one stone.

3. Functional food

Consumers don’t just want food that tastes, looks and smells good. They’re also looking at the role particular food items can play in promoting good health.

Also known as ‘functional foods’, items like vitamin D-fortified orange juice or yoghurt drinks containing probiotics (Activia, Yakult etc) are becoming more popular as consumers care more about what they’re putting into their bodies. They want foods that can deliver multiple things in one bite (so to speak).

This is backed by research too - the global functional ingredients market was worth an estimated £89.1 million ($64.9 million) in 2018 and is expected to reach £137.3 million by 2025 ($100 million). So, if you’re looking to rejuvenate your sales and regain a competitive edge, consider if ‘functional foods’ might be your way in.

 

Process & technology trends

4. More robust quality management and traceability processes

Improving food traceability

With all these demands for healthier ingredients and more sustainable practices, it will benefit the industry if existing quality management and traceability processes are more robust than they’ve ever been.

For instance, a traceable supply chain can make it easier for your business to adopt sustainable working practices. Let’s say you’re a manufacturer. A traceable supply chain means you can see where each ingredient has come from and at which point it entered your supply chain. You can monitor whether it’s abiding by your sustainability goals.

As for better quality management processes, it means you can ensure your product quality stays consistent even when you introduce alternative ingredients or adjust processes slightly. This can help you exceed customer expectations.

5. A stable supply chain

Political events, health crises and even efforts to become more sustainable - all these can impact your supply chain. You don’t want to experience shortages or delays when customer satisfaction is on the line.

So, a food industry trend for 2021 includes achieving supply chain stability. Some ways you can achieve that include:

  • Being flexible with your sourcing and distribution strategies
  • Modernising your manufacturing operations (think along the lines of a smart, connected factory, access to real-time data and full visibility)

How to improve your supply chain

6. Automation

Some of the top benefits of automation for the food industry include improved line efficiency, maximised ingredient usage and enhanced food safety. Then when you take increased demands, workforce shortages and social distancing regulations into account, it becomes much clearer why automation isn’t just a trend. It could well be a saviour for the industry.

Just make sure your team understands they’re not going to be replaced by robots or machines. In fact, these machines will handle the repeatable processes, improving quality, efficiency and freeing up more time for workers to focus on other critical tasks. The ones that actually require human input.

7. Waste reduction

Not only can food waste reduction benefit the environment, but it can also improve overall cost efficiency for businesses. Take physical waste, like by-products. You could take the Nestlé approach and use some of your by-products as substitutes for other ingredients. This can improve your supply chain resilience as well as open additional revenue streams.

And then there are the intangible examples of waste, like time. Technology, such as automation, AI and machine learning, can improve production efficiency and output. Which, in turn, improves cost efficiency.

 

Where is the future of food heading from 2021 onwards?

Food industry technology innovations

Keeping up with trends is one thing but if you truly want to futureproof your operations, you need to be considering digital transformation. Yes, that ‘buzzword’ you may have been seeing for a good few years now. In this current climate, you may have been hearing about it even more frequently.

In our latest industry report, we examine the state of the food industry and discuss where ‘digital transformation’ sits in the overall picture. Where do the majority of food businesses sit when it comes to innovation? How far does the industry still have to go? We cover it all in our report.

Download it below.

What does the future of food look like?

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