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Where the Foodservice Industry is headed

Monday, 28 November 2016 | Posted in Foodservice by Renee Harrison

By 2025, the food industry will see major shifts in the distribution of consumers’ food dollars. As a result, the structure of the foodservice and retail sectors will continue to evolve into having large market shares for premium products as well as affordable items and a small market share for mid-tier foods and venues once marketed to the middle class.

Total food industry sales will likely increase by more than $700 billion, reaching $2.06 trillion by 2025. While retail and foodservice will share the new growth equally, Technomic projects notable share gains by fresh-format and limited assortment stores, online channels, independent restaurants and small chains, and supermarket fresh prepared foods. These shifts are a reflection of the changes in consumer demand. Within foodservice distribution, alternative channels, namely club stores and online will be 16 percent of market share, compared with 12% in 2014.

Food companies will have to make upgrades in their food sourcing, IT infrastructure and people to keep up with trends.The following models developed by Technomic can guide industry’s investments.

The NEW Consumer Model

  • Consumers will be more ethnically diverse but also polarized in terms of age and income.
  • They will be interested in upscale food experiences or in maximized value.
  • Consumers (and trade customers) will demand that companies be totally transparent about business practices and corporate social responsibility
  • Consumers will value healthful food (fresh, GMO-free, local, organic, minimally processed, etc.), and corporate social responsibility.
  • Older and younger consumers will drive urbanization, favoring independents, digital channels for food and specialty distributors.

The NEW Food Supply Model

  • Consumer demand for fresh food and clean labels will shift food production to more organic and sustainable production and require a supply chain that focuses on fresh and local.
  • National distributors will dominate the supply chain for retailers and restaurants, but specialty distributors will carve out a sizeable niche.
  • Consumers and regulators alike will push for radical transparency from suppliers and food brands.

The NEW Economic Model

  • Escalating occupancy costs in urban markets will require restaurants and retailers to trim building footprints but maintain sales levels.
  • Partnering with players in the digital space or building separate fulfillment centers for off-premise sales and delivery will enable brands to harness big data and keep store-level economies efficient.
  • Industry regulations won’t let up, adding layers of volatility to input costs. Brands should stay flexible through integration of in-store and consumer tech.

The NEW Labor Model

  • Staffing models will bow to popular pressure against low wages. Brands will trade higher wages for lower turnover and relief from bad PR.
  • Progressive investments, like Starbucks’ tuition assistance or Whole Foods’ onsite clinics, will be tools in the contest to attract the best talent.
  • New technology, from labor scheduling software to digital ordering and fulfillment services, will help contain labor cost inflation as sales increase

In preparation for the transformation, Technomic advises that food companies including produce need to focus on the following five areas.

Reimagine, Reinvent, Reallocate, Repeat. Consumers have already begun to shift what and how they buy in response to evolving demographics, changing priorities and new realities in the economy and in the food supply, resulting in their moving away from traditional brands and venues. People and capital will need to be reallocated to growth channels and categories, which over the next decade will include a more healthful food supply built on fresher offerings and digital platforms for buying and distributing those items. New offerings must be acceptable to health-conscious consumers and accessible to anyone via online, mobile or digital means.

Act small to grow big. If they are to accelerate their pace of change and their speed to market, food companies must think and act like a small company – or acquire brands nimble enough to meet shifting demands quickly. Corporate strategies must increase a brand’s relevance to and coverage of emerging nontraditional channels, as well as growth segments like supermarket fresh prepared foods, group purchasing organizations and independent restaurants. The “less is more” ethos will play out in productivity initiatives and efficient restaurant and store designs that fight skyrocketing food, labor and other operating costs.

Embrace digital and big data. Companies must build their research and predictive analytics teams for customer insights because the challenges of the next decade, including consumers’ demand for greater transparency and food integrity; falling profit margins; and disruptions to the supply chain can be mitigated with data-driven solutions. Commerce and communication will continue to migrate online and to mobile devices. Food brands need to develop their capabilities in these channels or partner with experts to turn today’s transactional data into tomorrow’s winning strategies.

Anticipate and plan for the demand for a health-focused food supply. Consumers’ definitions of health will continue to evolve, and descriptors like ‘fresh”, “local” and “sustainable” will lose their elitist associations and be demanded by all consumers, not just the affluent or activists. Noncommercial segments like schools and healthcare are demanding fresher, natural and local food. Companies must move their food offerings to higher levels of health and food safety before their key accounts begin to request them. Revamping the supply chain to meet this demand will span everything from manufacturing and sourcing processes to packaging to where plants are located and how their deliveries are scheduled.

Boost your CSR quotient. Radical transparency will be the price of entry for consumers, not just on food companies’ ingredients labels, but also on their brand identity as good corporate citizens. Food companies will have to audit their policies on people, products and the planet. They will need to address everything from antibiotics and pesticides in the supply chain to carbon footprint to employee compensation – and be ready to show leadership in at least one of these areas. 

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