By Phil Lempert, RDBA President & CEO
2017 promises to be one of the most exciting in the history of food and retailing as technology - in food production, retail environments and consumer communication takes the main stage. A new administration in Washington promises to make significant changes to those agencies that will have a direct effect on food production and policies. All of which means that retail dietitians will be faced with more challenges than ever as shoppers come in to your stores with even more questions.
Trend #1. Silicon Valley & Food
CB Insights estimates that over $1 billion has been invested in food startups and projects in 2016 alone. Why does Silicon Valley love food? Food meets the sustainability portfolio requirements for investing – and has the potential to make a positive impact on the world. Kimbal Musk has underscored the potential by pointing out that the food opportunity is ten times bigger than the global software market. Hi-tech food entrepreneurs like Rob Reinhart, CEO of Soylent, feel that “the food system is too complex and too fragile. Farms are inefficient due to climate and labor conditions,” and have a different model for a food brand or restaurant. For them the criteria includes having a social conscience, being health driven, solving a problem (life-hacking) and most importantly a mass-market orientation. No niche brands for Silicon Valley, they want it all!
Trend #2. The Wild West
Traditional supermarkets saw store counts down 1% and their share of market down 0.7% - following a decade of continued loss of sales and share. The new food retailers are stealing customers with a different approach and understanding of shoppers. Aldi, Lidl and Amazon GO are the future as high quality, low prices and convenience set the stage for food retailing. They know how to communicate and their offerings are on target. What does the near future hold? Members only stores, zero-waste markets and delivery-only restaurants and grocers.
Trend #3. Enhanced Foods: Beyond Brownies
It’s a lot more than just adding protein to just about every food category; although sales prove that added protein can turn around categories that are declining like frozen appetizers. Look for the next big trend in “enhanced foods” coming from adding Matcha, butter, beets, botanicals and yes, cannabis to our foods. The cannabis business is estimated to grow to $22 billion in sales by 2020 with nine states approving it for recreational use and another 21 for medicinal use. We have already seen cannabis-cured lox, shrimp stew, deviled eggs, brittle bars, chocolate, canna-oils and of course brownies on menus as well as upscale secret location restaurants offering haute cuisine at $250 a head.
Trend #4. Generation Z
A new generation is about to take the food scene by storm, leaving Millennials with their constant search for what’s next in the dust. Gen Z is more likely to eat fresh home cooked meals and healthier QSR offerings and think that cooking is cool. They prefer stove top to microwave cooking and are more intuitive cooks. For them, the most ethnically diverse generation, ethnic foods are the norm. This 50 million strong generation – now 5 to 20 year olds – have been shaped by the recession and terrorism and as a result are willing to work hard for a stablefuture. They are financially cautious and demand good value from the foods they consumer in and out of home. They hate corporate greed, don’t trust brands and demand transparency.
Trend #5. Sustainability
While the food industry continues to argue about the definition of sustainability, consumers have already weighed in and are making their food decisions based on where and how their foods are made, grown, raised and by whom. Look for cage-free to evolve to pasture-raised and aviary systems, Halal & Kosher to grow by double digits over the next decade as more shoppers understand their tenants, and brands and fat fooderies to jump on the bandwagon of what Morgan Spurlock (of SuperSize Me fame) calls “transparelocalicious.” Food ideologies become more important as people realize the foods that could disappear over the next decades like avocados, coffee, lobsters and even chocolate.
Trend #6. Digital Foodscape
People want more information, about food (and everything else) and as a result we are bombarded with too much content, fake food news and poorly designed recipes. Look for the new foodscape to be simple, stand out, engage and be multisensational – and all that comes through the next generation of food communication through gamification, edu-tainment and AVA triggered content. The digital foodscape is the language of the Millennials and Gen Z.
Trend #7. Microbrands to Megabrands
Smaller nimble brands are growing and using the new media to connect in real time and build trust and authenticity with their customers. As they grow, and are possibly acquired by larger food companies, their loyalists question whether or not these brands become bastardized and lose what made them special. Two-thirds of the top CPG brands saw sales decline in 2015 and the top 5 lost $13 billion in sales. People are not eating less; they are choosing the brands that mirror their needs and values. Smart CPG companies are acquiring, but not for the brands, but for the talent that understands today’s consumer and the information age.
Trend #8. Augmented Transparency (AT)
AT will change the way we gather information about foods in an immersive, engaging and empowering way. This technology will allow for multi-panel deep dives into the nutritional information, ingredients, sourcing all across the supply-chain to answer questions which shoppers have. From customized recipes, nutrition tours and empowering educational events, AT will offer expert level knowledge on demand and filtered based on one’s personal interests and change the perspective of the food world into a 3600 view.
Trend #9. Cellular Agriculture
In 1931 Winston Churchill predicted the evolution we are now realizing in cellular agriculture where animal free proteins are being produced that are molecularly identical to meat, dairy, eggs, chicken, fish, shrimp and turkey. Brands like Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods, Muufri, Ripple, Perfect Day and CellPod are moving into mainstream markets and challenging the norm. Medical science and food production are intertwined and producing foods that are better for the environment, have a longer shelf life, better food safety and can personalize nutritional attributes all while changing the landscape of animal welfare.
Trend #10. The New Administration
President-elect Donald Trump has offered many public opinions on the agencies that impact agriculture, food production and food retailing. Over the past decade food companies have done a terrific job in reducing waste, eliminating ingredients and artificial colors and additives and improving their food safety practices. How will the food industry deal in the uncertainty of non-resident farm workers, increased tariffs on exports and imports to certain countries and possible deregulation of the FDA and EPA?
What will 2017 be like for food and retailing? More exciting than we have ever witnessed. What’s your reaction to these trends? I would love to hear your thoughts Phil@RetailDietitians.com