Being asked what to expect for 2017 is very difficult. I know how the All Black selectors must feel. Pressure comes not in the form of choosing a squad (which can be shaped to win in the longer term), but in selecting a match-fit and proven line-up that will do the job on the next showing. And so, in no particular order, here are the trends I’m picking for the year ahead:
Everything suggests that the pace of technological change will continue to change the food and beverage sector - what is grown, how it gets to us, when and where we buy from, and what ‘food’ we prepare and eat. It doesn’t matter if the influencing technology was agritech, biotech, digital, environmental, food tech, material, nano, medtech or genomic. Rabobank commented recently that “processes are more important than product features”.
Ethnic diversity will continue to influence our shopping experience, our choice of protein to accompany our meal, and our selection when eating out. And I believe we can expect growth in Mexican and Spanish fare and ingredients.
Grains (such as those in Farrah Grain Wraps), and other ancient varieties of fruits and vegetables will grow in demand as consumers push back on tasteless high yielding cultivars, and as growers/marketers get better at segmenting and positioning their crops.
Artisanal foods and entrepreneurial spirit
Artisanal foods will continue to grow, perhaps as alternative employment options for migrants, and as corporates 'let go' of senior leaders and seek to realise niche opportunities.
Unfortunately, the rate of failure of small businesses will continue because we fail to learn from others’ mistakes. A few will go global from day one, learning from software and information technologies, and with the help of consolidators, New Zealand-based 'agents' and the growth and capability of the internet and reach of social media.
Consumers will continue to be wooed by clever retailer marketing, and by corporates such as Crafters Union.
The search for healthy and nutritious 'real food' will increasingly be trumped and influenced by a new reference set. Two years ago it was chefs that were the rock stars, but now bloggers, dietitians, gym instructors, work and drop-off-zone word-of-mouth will be the new influence. Insurers may even enter the fray with linked discounts to diet plans.
We'll get even more precious about coffee - in all its forms.
Cool niche will flourish - Rouge Society, Lewis Rd, Proper Crisps, Vogel’s, Whittaker’s, Genevieve's, East Imperial, Soda Press Co. And craft beer will proliferate even more. Kereru and Yeastie Boys are good examples.
My Food Bag
My Food Bag will continue to grow, but face increased competition from supermarkets and niche fresh distributors clawing back the market.
Blurring of nutraceutical and food
The blur between nutraceutical and food will continue, driven by a need for ‘real food' and genuine health and nutrition needs (obesity, diabetes, skin whitening and care, gut health, metabolic health, joint health, weight management, cognition, stress, sleep). And so I believe we will see a focus on ingredients such as beetroot, aloe, yakon, grapeseed, kiwifruit, blackcurrants, whey and pycoginol. These will be branded, the IP will be owned, and the benefits will be well articulated on the pack.
This respect for (branded) ingredients will drive investment into capabilities in thermal technologies, robotics, sensing, optical technologies, light and data use – and it’ll be across the whole food value chain. If we can find the investment, the focus on the process and the physical will create momentum in Manufacturing 4.0 in New Zealand.
New multinationals and partnerships
Wilmar International, Douwe Egberts, Sinolife, URC, Charoen Pokphand Foods and other ‘new’ multinationals will start to replace familiar names like Danone, Nestle, Pepsi, Kellogg's and General Mills as our multinational reference set. And large brands are looking for partnerships with small brands. So perhaps an age of partnerships is closer as entrepreneurship in corporates gets harder.
NGOS and Government regulations will attempt to stay ahead of consumer concerns of safety, sustainability, traceability, labelling and end of life reuse.
‘Free from’ will continue to be in demand – free from gluten, dairy, meat, eggs, soy, wheat.
Storytelling and CSR
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) will ‘spill over’ to large private firms and SMEs (from listed organisations). QR codes are just one marketing tool increasingly used to give consumers and shoppers visibility on where their food is coming from, how it is processed, the story of the founder/creator/corporate and how to prepare it Those stories will become more emotive and in tune with shopper and consumer concerns (social, environmental and economic value).
I expect a war of words over the attempt at owning the position “grass-fed”.
Coconut, sheep, goat, deer, soy and nut milk products will become more obvious on shelves and in various formats.
Craig Armstrong is a Customer Director at NZTE
At NZTE, our portfolio of food and beverage work, and the pipeline of prospects, has never been more diverse. With MPI, MBIE, and MFAT, the focus is firmly on exponential export growth, and value-added products and services. The businesses we are working with are spread right across the value chain but more focused than ever on customers, channels, shoppers.
This story was origianlly published in New Zealand Food Technology magazine.