The food and beverage industry is an ever-changing and ever-growing sector and therefore represents a prime candidate for innovation and development. You would not be wrong in thinking that a large part of innovation in this industry is attributable to flavour, however, more and more innovation involves the consumer behaviour, the processing, the packaging and the storage of food.
Clean, green and lean
Social culture is changing whereby people are becoming aware of how external factors, including food and its molecules, affect their bodies and health. This has created a movement towards ‘free’ foods – those foods that are free from lactose, gluten, sugar, MSG and fat, to name a few. In addition to consumers being acutely aware of what substances or molecules are incorporated in their food, they are also becoming aware of how the growth and production of their food is achieved, who or what is impacted during these processes and whether these processes adhere to basic ethical laws. In other words, if people, animals or the environment are exploited during the growth or production of their food, consumers will be more likely to select other options and boycott food providers citing moral and ethical dilemmas.
Innovation, in this instance, appears in the form of creating healthy, tasty, long-life, low-production-costing food that does not exploit any humans, animals or have any detrimental impact on the environment during its production. This is no small feat and certainly provides an opportunity for lateral thinking and technology to shine.
Digging deep and connecting
A large part of any retail endeavour is understanding your customer intrinsically, aiming to meet their needs and their desires and connecting with them so that they feel worthy. Enhancing customer satisfaction can set food and beverage manufacturers apart and therefore represents an area for great innovation and improvement. They should invest time and money in gaining powerful analytics on their customers’ purchasing behaviours and what factors might influence them and then ascertain how they might meet these needs and desires. Capturing this meaningful information is far more achievable with the help of certain software which, can assist with inventory management in the warehouse, and also used at the point of sale whereby it records details of every purchase made and updates inventory stock accordingly. The by-product is powerful purchasing information that can be used in subsequent trend analysis.
Emotion recognition software is also being incorporated by some companies to capture the feelings of people as they consume products. Due to the highly emotional aspect of taste and consumption of food and beverages, this form of data acquisition is exceedingly helpful in creating pictures of social trends.
Better for longer
The irony of our consumer-centric society is that even though we want everything quickly to adhere to our rushed lifestyles, we also want products that can last without spoiling. In doing so, this means we are being given convenience whereby a product can be bought when it is convenient and eaten when it is convenient, even if these two events do not happen in synchronisation. To throw a curve ball into the mix, we also want products that are not laden with preservatives but are still as au naturale as possible. How might this seemingly impossible demand be achieved?
In part, through cleverly designed foods with the right chemical compositions, albeit natural chemicals, to achieve maximum shelf life. However, by not exposing foods to preservatives, there is an inevitable predisposition to spoiling. This is where industrially designed and engineered packaging is useful. Packaging that has an impeccable seal while still favouring environmentally-friendly or environmentally-neutral materials is a massive area for improvement and therefore innovation.
Food or raw ingredients that are more ethical and wholesome in nature but can be kept for longer may also appeal greatly to food manufacturers. Raw ingredients with longer shelf-lives can greatly improve inventory control, decrease wastage and thus even lower ordering costs; all of which are points of difference worth highlighting when marketing to customers.
Technology and innovation is not just reserved for the typical fields such as medicine or engineering. They have a significant role to play in the actual manufacturing of food and beverages as well as in the marketing and storage of finished products. Despite technological advancements seeming daunting at the outset, their implementation can be extremely beneficial.