As the pandemic transforms our shopping and eating habits, it has also brought to light the importance of food in our lifestyle. Food is not just for sustenance, but a means to flourish and stay well.
With more consumers turning away from processed foods, food and beverage companies need to rethink their strategy to maintain relevance in a post-COVID landscape.
Food and Beverage Industry Challenges
While companies, both large and small, have been agile enough to adapt to a changing landscape, here are a few challenges faced by the food and beverage research industry today –
1. Health Considerations
Food and market research show how consumers are growing more aware of food-related disorders. This has led to the role of food in the day-to-day progressing from beyond taste to nutrition and wellness.
Many manufacturers have been known to add sugar or other sweeteners to products. The increasing incidence of diabetes, obesity, and allergies has led to dairy, gluten, and sugar consumption being vilified. However, with more consumers reading product labels this will prove to be problematic.
Product managers in the food and beverage market today are having to focus on products without preservatives and additives. The challenge has been creating great-tasting, high-quality nutritional alternatives without compromising quality or taste while maintaining cost-effectiveness.Another nutritional trend on the rise in the food and beverage research industry is the demand for organic food. Growing in concert with the reduction of processed food, there has been increasing awareness of organic food and its positive health impact.
2. Increasing Demand for Meat-alternatives
A rising percentage of the population is becoming plant-forward, reducing their meat consumption. We believe this trend will continue with a diet. This needs to be met with a corresponding increase in vegetarian and vegan products.
This has led to giants in the food and beverage industry such as Sainsbury, Nestle, and Aldi launching meat alternatives at retail outlets. The main checkpoints are taste, texture, and nutrition. However, the challenge has been the time frame. With evolving expectations and demand, consumers and retailers alike are looking for new options.
Each year, 108 billion pounds of food is wasted in the United States. Food and beverage market data research shows that sustainability has been a critical challenge faced by the industry.
It is necessary to streamline the supply chain to reduce wastage and figure out alternatives for packaging and energy sources to minimize the environmental impact.
4. Lack of Transparency
With growing ethical concerns, consumers want to be associated with brands that maintain transparency and accountability. International and fragmented supply chains often cause gaps in traceability.
Transparency covers aspects ranging from the source of fresh produce, the kind of farms, the employees and their working conditions to the type of processing, packaging, and more.
While large brands in the food and beverage industry can cover the gaps, tier two and three brands will have a hard time. This leads to a lack of transparency across the global food supply chain.
Must Read: Biggest Food Trends & Predictions for 2021
Food and Beverage Industry: Research and Opportunities
In the light of the challenges faced, the food and beverage industry is working hard to meet evolving needs. With growing research on ingredient pairings, Sustainable to put more sustainable packaging and unique products on the shelves and available online to meet the challenges of growing consumer needs & demand.
Manufacturers have responded by clean labeling their products. This includes highlighting the origin of the ingredients and listing out wholesome, recognizable ingredients.
1. Health and Immunity
The pandemic has only served to highlight the importance of nutrition and its role in health and immunity. Consumers are making a more conscious effort to place health in the central position.
Food and market research demonstrates increasing consumer knowledge on food and its role in immunity. With growing awareness of the connection between gut health and immunity, fermented products are gaining momentum in the marketplace.
Consumers are shying away from additives and preservatives, offering incredible scope to develop products that offer health benefits made with quality ingredients and natural flavor. This is an excellent opportunity to hero fresh ingredients and their nutritional benefits.
For instance, kombucha, kimchi, and other fermented foods have been gaining immense popularity through the pandemic. Several homegrown, small brands are developing fresh, high-quality fermented food products at home, sans preservatives.
2. Tech-enabled Transparency
At the beginning of the pandemic, there was apprehension over the safety in food processing and manufacturing centers. According to food and market end-to-end supply chain transparency will be a recurring theme in 2021 in the midst of the pandemic. Consumers today are on the lookout for brands capable of building trust and confidence with reliable and authentic products.
Food wastage is a massive problem in the industry. Innovation in packaging will help resolve when foods are thrown out or declared unsuitable for consumption. Innoscentia in collaboration with Ynvisible Interactive Inc is developing novel packaging enabling real-time quality monitoring of the food. This solution is aimed at decreasing food waste and identifying spoiled food in time.
This offers tremendous opportunity in rethinking the packaging with invisible barcodes and near-field communication technology.
With 74% of consumers willing to pay an additional amount for products in sustainable packaging, brands need to get creative, fast. Brands today are rethinking their approach and aesthetics relative to environmental impact. This has led to innovation in eco-friendly packaging material. While refillable containers and returnable/reusable packaging is not new, it is making a huge comeback.
Brands such as CupClub, Globelet, ReCup, and CupKita are pioneers in this space. However, the upcoming food trend is expanding beyond beverages. Fresh Bowl uses glass containers to serve fresh salads which can be returned to its kiosk post consumption.
The use of antimicrobial packaging is capable keeping food fresh for longer periods. Prepared from biodegradable clay this additionally reduces microbial action proportionally decreasing the potential of viral or microbial diseases. However, this is an expensive alternative and there is research underway to optimize this solution.
Edible packaging has come a long way from being ludicrous to being available for commercial purposes. Food and beverage market research shows that chitosan is the most effective. It is widely available and possesses natural antibacterial activity. It works as a physical barrier by preventing the direct contact of microbes with the food. Additionally, it inhibits the respiratory activity of bacteria by blocking the oxygen supply in the packaging. Primarily used for fruits and vegetable packaging, it is highly likely it will be adopted by restaurants for packaging takeaways.
Bioplastics such as Polyethylene terephthalate (PET), prepared from biodegradable, renewable resources are being extensively used today. PET, produced from feedstocks, has the highest recycling rate and can substitute petroleum-based components. According to European Bioplastics, bio-based PET is an economic and effective form of plastic packaging. With an elastic texture made of robust fibers it can replace packaging materials for containers, rigid bottles, and films.
4. Plant-based Innovation
The pandemic caused a major shift in eating habits. Data shows that a total of 57% of US households purchased plant-based food in 2020. The pandemic allowed people the time and space to experiment with food and flavor. Food and beverage market research in the US shows 92% first-time buyers of alternative protein said they would likely continue purchasing meat alternatives beyond the pandemic.
Food and beverage market research demonstrates that the contributing factors to the rising popularity of plant-alternatives was taste and health. Increasing lactose and animal-based food intolerance, animal abuse considerations, climate change, and nutritional benefits offered by plant-based products were other factors.
According to food and beverage market data research, there is a 23% increase in the sale of plant-based meat when shelved next to traditional meat. Impossible burgers, for instance, have grown from being stocked at 300 stores to being available 20,000 stores in the US.
With an increase in demand for plant-based alternatives, brands like Nestlé are strategically working on expanding their plant-based options. With increasing investments from venture capitalists, the plant-based food industry is seeing massive innovation to meet changing demands.
5. Exciting Flavors
The pandemic served to reduce distance by making global cuisine accessible. Consumers are expecting more choices and variety that are in tune with a more inclusive, global, exciting culture.
Social isolation led to burgeoning home cooks experimenting with flavor, cuisine, and new ingredients. Additionally, with travel bans and restrictions on dining out, cooking has been therapeutic in most cases. This has led to consumers recreating the restaurant experience using novel ingredients and techniques.
With more focus on health and wellness, ingredients like berries, moringa, and whole spices are likely to see a boom in sales. There is more opportunity in showcasing native ingredients and traditional cooking. Brands are catering to this demand by hero-ing various ingredients and flavor profiles in their ready-to-eat meals, sauces, soups, and meal kits.
With limited shelf space, new products need to be unique and appealing. This has led to innovation using new base ingredients to make their products stand out.
6. Optimizing Yield and Nutrition
Optimizing agricultural yield is a growing opportunity in the food industry today. Researchers are working with artificial intelligence to understand how farmers grow better food by creating optimal growing conditions.
The optimal growing conditions for each crop is unique. Food computers and sensors work together to collect data. Smart farming is a step closer in understanding and improving the yield in controlled environments.
Food and beverage data analysis demonstrates these data points will help optimize the best growing conditions for different plants with specific targets. Improved flavor profiles and better tolerance to external stressors will lead to higher yield, maximized resources, and reduced wastage.
Several companies are working to monitor the effects of variables like UV light, salinity, heat, and water stress on plants.
Research is underway to identify plant diseases and pests using wireless sensor networks early on. With an accuracy of 98% this technology goes a long way in reducing wastage.
The Road Ahead
We believe the future of the food and beverage industry is being driven by sustainability and consumer preferences. Technological ingenuity, awareness of consumer needs, and innovation will help brands make the most of this opportunity.
The pandemic has allowed people to learn more about their metabolic health, try new cuisines, and ingredients. The draw for exotic, packaged food is being replaced by carefully choosing local, seasonal produce.
Slow cooking, traditional cooking methods, and a return to time-tested methods of boosting immunity with fermented foods and a plat-forward diet is here to stay. Food and beverage companies whether large or start ups need to start by understanding that the pandemic changed consumer perception of food.
Food data analytics offers untold potential scope to transform the food industry and set high standards for health and quality. This will further revolutionize the customer experience and streamline operations in the food and beverage industry. Building on that and rethinking brand messaging, ingredients, processing, and packaging is essential.
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