Changing consumer trends and developments in the food supply chain are shaping the food and drink sector, and the agricultural industry needs to keep pace with this.
These changes will bring some scepticism to the industry, however, there are also opportunities to be realised from this progression.
Here are four food trends to bear in mind.
1. Traceability is king
We’ve all heard of the phrase ‘cash is King,’ and when it comes to food and drink, this phrase can be mirrored when talking about food traceability.
Consumers are said to be seeking greater assurances about the provenance and integrity of food and digging much deeper than they ever have before.
Research from Mintel has shown that many consumers around the world lack trust in regulatory systems, manufacturers and even their fellow humans and are therefore increasingly looking for complete and total transparency from food companies and the farmers who supply them.
Making this sort of information available will require a change in approach along the whole supply chain and could see us move into an era of ‘radical transparency.’
However, it’s a factor to consider when thinking about starting a food or drink business. Consumers want transparency, how could you ensure you are able to deliver this?
2. Engineered meat and milk
The day lab-grown meat or animal-free dairy products becomes a mainstream commercial reality is still a while away, but investment by companies such as Cargill, Unilever and the tech billionaire Bill Gates is hastening the development of scientifically engineered food and drinks.
Memphis Meat’s based in San Francisco is one of a number of start-ups working in this field. It focuses on producing real meat from animal cells, without the need to raise or process animals, with an aim to launch in 2021.
And as more companies start to enter into this field, the cost of producing artificial meat is falling fast.
A briefing paper published in August by the Adam Smith Institute said just five years ago the cost of a burger made with meat grown in a lab stood at £192,000, but now the price tag has dropped to just £8.
3. Plant-based proteins
When Waitrose issued its list of food-based predictions for 2018, high on the list was increased demand for plant proteins.
New plant-based proteins appeal to people wanting to follow a flexitarian diet (semi-vegetarian), as well as to full-time vegetarians and vegans.
They attract people who believe that they will be reducing their environmental impact by choosing not to eat meat as regularly. But they also appeal to consumers who like the idea of following a more ‘natural’ diet because of the perceived health benefits.
In May, Tesco became the first supermarket to sell a plant-based ‘steak’ which its Dutch manufacturer claims looks and tastes just like real meat.
The product is a world first and made from a combination of soya and wheat, with beetroot used to help give the product the look and feel of a real steak.
With consumers seeking more ‘natural’ foods and many wanting to try something ‘new’, is there an opportunity here or are we at risk of overcrowding the market? Or is there an educational role needed to build consumers’ trust and confidence in meat and dairy production?
4. Consumer attitudes
There is no denying that different generations have different tastes and attitudes towards food and drink.
According to attitudinal work carried out by AHDB, younger consumers are much more cost-conscious than older generations and are less willing to spend a long-time cooking. This means they are looking for food products that are quick and easy to prepare and cook.
In addition, people are increasingly thinking about the health benefits when choosing their food, although health means different things to different people.
There is no doubt that there are changing times ahead, but these existing and upcoming trends provide food for thought if you’re considering setting up a food or drink business.
Food trends, consumers, rural business ideas, sector trends, farm diversification