For as long as I’ve been overseeing the content of Food Engineering magazine, the mandate for food and beverage processors has been serving consumer needs. In the past decade, however, the pressure to deliver the right goods to consumers has become even more intense.
I am referring not only to formulation changes and product line expansions, but also to food safety and sustainability improvements and how food and beverage makers communicate with the public.
As the cover story of this issue states: Change is the new normal. As consumers request formulation changes such as eliminating dyes and incorporating more natural ingredients, I agree this is a step in the right direction. However, food and beverage manufacturers walk a fine line whenever changes are made to formulations. Sometimes when products contain more natural ingredients, sales take a dive. Consumers may say they want the real deal in products, but don’t always like the resulting taste.
Another massive change we’ve seen in the past decade is the rise of the digital age. Who would have predicted that Facebook, Twitter and specialized blogs and websites would wield so much power over our industry? In addition, digitally savvy consumers in some parts of the world are food shopping on cell phones. (See pages 72-74 in this issue.) I can’t see myself doing that any time soon, but I can understand how it might become the norm in the next 10 years. Here again, the industry must walk the fine line between giving consumers too many digital messages and providing just enough to support their needs.
In the future, I hope the food and beverage manufacturing industry will be successful in going far beyond consumer expectations, but not go so far that it turns off consumers. In any event, I’m sure the emerging generation of consumers will not be shy in letting our industry know—digitally, of course—exactly what they want or think they want.