2 answers

What is the future in the food industry business? (For ex. what will be the trend, style).

Asked Salatiga, Central Java, Indonesia

2 answers

Lynne’s Answer


Hey Matt,

Thanks for your question! It's certainly an interesting one. If you look at new products being developed by large corporations and fast food chains, you'll see that the 3 trends are towards:

1. Health consciousness

2. Multiculturalism

3. Sustainability

Healthy eating has been an upward trend since the early 90's, when the free flow of information became more widespread and people became more and more educated about the health risks of excessive sugar intake. We realized that to live a longer and healthier life, it all starts with what we put into our bodies. To stay relevant, companies have had to alter their menus and products ( for example, McDonalds introduced salads, and Ben&Jerry developed Greek yoghurt). Fast forward to today, you'll see the plethora of documentaries on Netflix (like What the Health) perpetuating diet trends like Whole 30, Atkins, Keto, etc. It's actually inspiring to see food and beverage companies responding to this trend by coming out with responsible products that would help reduce obesity and diabetes. Oh, and Michelle Obama helped a lot with this too ;)

In terms of multiculturalism, I'm sure you've been seeing more exotic flavors being introduced into your grocery stores. With globalization came the mixing of cultures, and with increased access to air travel, our palettes have become more sophisticated. We want new foods; and then we want the opportunity to get those foods wherever we are. That's why Frito-Lay has a "Red Curry" flavored chip from their brand Off the Eaten Path, and why Wendy's has introduced a "Taco Salad". They're trying to reach certain demographics to remind them of home, or remind them of their travels.

The last trend that we're witnessing right now is that of sustainability. I'm not just talking about recycling and driving Teslas. With the help of documentaries and news articles, we've discovered that cattle ranching is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gasses, and the top reason for deforestation. So for "Save the Earth" people, switching to a plant-based diet is the single most effective thing you can do. With a growing number of companies like Beyond Burger and KiteHill, who use plants to imitate things like beef and cheese, it's getting increasingly easier to go vegan or vegetarian. You'll see that a lot of athletes are starting to do it, too. Did you know that even Tom Brady has gone vegan? 

Liz’s Answer

Updated San Francisco, California

Hi Matt,

What a great question! Something I've spent a lot of time thinking about in my time in the specialty food industry at a San Francisco grocery store for the last 15 years. In addition to specific food style trends that the previous respondent covered, I think there are some over-arching business trends we can point to as well:

  1. Food purchases moving online: Especially in light of Amazon's takeover of Whole Foods Market in 2017, customers are spending an ever-increasing amount of their grocery dollars online (#6d4c760c62f3">some experts predict as much as 20% of our grocery purchases will be made online by 2025). This creates both challenges and opportunities for traditional food retail. Grocery stores, larger retailers, and even convenience stores have trouble competing on price for every-day purchases that customers may now be making chiefly online. However, as you'll see in bullet #2, there is also an opportunity for retail food operations to differentiate their product sets in unique and local ways that large online retailers find challenging. In my job as the head of purchasing and procurement at Bi-Rite in San Francisco, we were able to do this by meeting small local food producers and farmers and bringing in their products to sell. Folks would come to our store specifically for those unique products because they couldn't find them anywhere else. In the restaurant space, the online trend is significant and will likely continue to grow in the future. This move to ordering restaurant food online creates both opportunity for foodservice providers to reach a larger audience, but is also a challenge as restaurants can struggle to earn enough profit from their online sales (the online provider/deliverer like Caviar or UberEats usually takes a cut of the restaurant's sale to support their platform and labor force).
  2. Demand for unique, exclusive in-person food experiences: This trend runs somewhat counter to #1, but it is certainly visible in the food industry and does make sense when you think about it closely. As folks order more of their food online, they may feel less connected to their food source, and so may search out opportunities to connect to food providers or discover more unique products that can't be found in their online marketplace. The demand here presents opportunities for local food businesses (retailers, restaurants, and producers/makers) to thrive in their smaller localized market, but may make it challenging for larger retail chains to compete as they tend to have fewer opportunities to create localized product offerings. Something we tried to do in my previous job is spend time really getting to know our customers and personalizing our service. We also trained our staff to be highly attentive and attuned to our guests' needs.
  3. An ever-increasing desire from consumers to understand where their food comes from, and to assure it comes from a responsible source: This topic is a really exciting one -- as folks demand to know more about where their food comes from, how and by whom it was produced, and to be able to assess its impact on the community and environment, food producers and sellers face the challenge of meeting that customer demand. The opportunity is definitely to stand out by committing to sourcing, production, and impact standards that go above and beyond competitors. Another challenge but also exciting opportunity here is to think about how to scale sustainability initiatives as businesses grow.

Additionally, I would highlight some current opportunities and threats to think about:

  1. Climate change interfering with our food system in a dramatic and dynamic way
  2. Access to good food being limited to certain geographic locations or portions of the population
  3. Finding passionate food enthusiasts to work in the tougher, less glamorous, and lower-paid jobs in the food industry (think farmer, cook, retail food associate).

Liz recommends the following next steps:

  • Experience a front line food job for yourself: while you can, seek out a restaurant, food retailer, or food maker who needs part time help right on the front lines. As a student you'll often find the schedule more flexible and accommodating to your class schedule, and the experience you gain working as a cook, cashier, production assistant, or server/busser can be invaluable in providing insight to the inner workings of the food industry and its customers.
  • Learn about sustainability in the food system: if you have coursework available to you around sustainable agriculture, animal husbandry, or the effects of climate change on the food system, this can be excellent background information for a future career in responding to customer desire for better sourcing.
  • Volunteer in your local area to support food accessibility: if social impact is also of interest, see if you can gain some insight into who has access to what kind of food by volunteering. Your local food bank or farmer's market network can be a good place to start.