The New Disruptor: Health

If you thought 2017 was a transformational year for the food industry, 2018’s latest food trends have already proven there are more disruptions coming to the culinary sector. The words “Organic,” “Sustainable,” “Wellness,” and “Technology” are making headlines as top buzzwords around food service industries, and how you choose to adapt will have a profound impact on your organization (to be felt growth-wise, reputation-wise, and in your bottom-line).

Organic & Minimally-Processed Foods

More and more food contractors are shopping locally for fresher foods and promoting sustainable ingredients in their menus.  Forward-looking foodservice operators –such as Panera Bread and Chipotle to name a few– have taken the lead to make their products cleaner and focus on natural ingredients. Almost weekly, a new restaurant chain will announce that they now serve cage-free eggs, grass-fed beef or antibiotic-free chicken. From the new chain of ‘easy to eat’ restaurants to menus from long-established chains, companies are jumping on the bandwagon of organic and minimally processed foods. The reason is plain and simple: Consumers are now more health-conscious than ever.

Health Conscious Consensus

As of 2015, annual organic food sales stood at $39.7 billion, representing nearly five percent of  total food sales globally, according to the Organic Trade Association (OTA). Sales for organic products are growing at an 11% annual clip—nearly four times the rate of overall US food sales. When we take into account the fact that Neilsen’s 2015 study showed that “Younger consumers are most willing to pay a premium for health benefits,” we see that this trend is set to continue as the millennial generation matures. As CNBC reported last year, the “Mintel Global Food and Drink Trends 2017 report [showed] a 257 percent increase in the number of vegan food and beverage launches in 2016, compared to 5 years ago.” The industry is evolving, and it’s time to join the fresh-food frenzy.

Faster Access to Nutrition

According to recent stats by Flurry Analytics, Americans spend an average of five hours per day on a mobile device – a trend that’s expected to increase in 2018. From parents to kids, consumers in this space are demanding dietary information at the tips of their fingers. Optimizing your technology landscape, cloud and going mobile are now no longer a trend, but a necessity, for growing culinary institutions and food-based organizations. Forrester estimates that mobile’s influence on offline retail sales is growing about 6.3% a year and will reach $1.4 trillion by 2021 — becoming about 36% of total retail sales. This goes to show that mobile will continue to have a growing effect on retail sales in the U.S. in the years to come.

Transformative Food Technology

As a result of the health-conscious industry revolution and new technologies becoming available, companies are finding new ways of disrupting the vertical food chain and delivering transparency – putting value in the hands of hungry consumers. From digitalization to block chain, new solutions are arriving to sate the growing demand for accuracy and clarity on nutritional value, dietary needs, allergens and other food info that the consumer wants to know. In today’s food world, consumers aren’t only interested in knowing what they eat, but there is now a market desire to know the entire narrative about who made the food, where it came from, and how it is produced.

In the coming years, technology needs to play a vital role in making food production and delivery more sustainable. If organizations refuse to adopt these new practices, they can expect consumers to toss them out with the perishables.