As society continues to develop swiftly, there are new emerging trends which are affecting the food and beverage industry. Keeping up with change is a challenge for most food companies. Food manufacturers consider consumers unpredictable and trends more varied, but have been able to identify clear innovation priorities which often require sticking to the basics and improving on the time scale from concept to the shelf.
The biggest barriers to food innovation are related to social and geopolitical issues. Consumers now want minimize their impact on the environment. Food miles are one method for consumers to buy locally and reduce the effects of transportation. The biggest threats to innovation are mainly food scares, consumer distrust and the influence of media.
In life there are leaders and followers. Food manufacturers feel consumers have a lot of influence on current food trends. An innovation gap develops when there is a time lag between the identification of a particular trend and the availability of a food product to fulfill it. Manufacturers are confident in delivering consumer products that are on trend but tend to find consumer trends varied and unpredictable.
Collaboration is seen as a key driver in innovation with the need to keep up to changing consumer trends and getting ahead of the competition. Acceleration of new product timelines is deemed an essential tool in innovation. Rapid innovation means faster formulations and production line turnarounds. This in line with lower gross margins, leaves lower levels for error. Consumers are also expecting cleaner labels in more and more food categories. Consumers want high protein, vegan options and reduced fat and also want functionality in their food.
It is important to narrow the innovation gap. This ensures manufacturers are more competitive due to good brand management. A wait-and-see approach is not ideal as market share can be lost. There is a need to produce functional food which is nutritious, healthy and of high quality. The food industry is adapting in a number of ways from the use of novel ingredients to shifting to smaller scale production units.
To innovate there is a need to collectively collaborate with academia, research institutes and other food formulation companies.