Eco-friendly innovation will shape the future of the food industry

Personalised 3D printed foods may be the future of the industry

New technologies and innovative ingredients are likely to structurally change the food supply chain in the near future, says a report by Rabobank.

The study What's Cooking in Tomorrow's Kitchen stated that in the face of a growing global population and limited natural resources, alternative and environmental friendly ingredients such as macro-algae (seaweed), micro-algae (spirolina and chlorella) and insects as a form of protein, may “drastically change the market”.

Speaking to FoodNavigator, author Jelle Groot pointed to Hampton Creek’s Just Mayo and Solazyme’s algae flour as examples of products that have successfully replaced existing ingredients with alternative ones. He added that big food companies need to be as proactive and develop their strategies around the changes if profit margins are to remain unaffected.

This growing trend centres on consumers’ three mind-sets of sustainability, convenience and health, he said. Consumers with a health mind-set want to increasingly understand what their bodies need, and eat accordingly. New technologies that help such innovations, such as personalised diets and customised food, are set to gain in popularity. “Scanning one’s DNA for a personalised diet chart and using online filters to choose organic foods, reduced sodium or low carbohydrates will only increase with time,” said Groot.

New technologies

As consumers look to reduce time, effort and energy, online food shopping will also continue to grow in the next two decades.

New technologies inside stores enabling retailers to deliver an augmented shopping experience will help companies engage with customers through personalised offers and product suggestions to fit with diet and lifestyle. “Hand-held food scanners allowing users to get the nutritional values of food looks set to rise in popularity. However, all this will lead to food companies being challenged to deliver more consistent quality,” he added.

Wearable technology, self-tracking apps to help consumers 'quantify' and track data on their lives as well as 3D printed food that can be personalised with respect to nutritional values and ingredients as well as flavour, texture and size are technologies to look out for, said Groot.

Adoption is key

Adoption may take time as challenges lie in scale, cost competitiveness and consumer acceptance. Significant research and development, marketing and promotional efforts by food companies will be required to develop products with these novel ingredients at a price level consumers will pay, he said.

Though predicting the future is impossible, technologies such as wearable devices and smart shopping tools are already changing consumer mind-sets and demands.

“These innovations are happening and they will impact the food supply chain,” said Goot.

But while the results are uncertain, using innovations that tap into consumer megatrends can help processors find those much sought-after pockets of growth, he added.

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