As we end the year, I wanted to take a look back at the food and beverage industry trends that have shaped the first half of the decade. The Internet and social media not only continue to affect our professional lives to a large extent, they also have presented many challenges to the food and beverage manufacturing industry. The result is a concerted effort by the industry to respond to consumers who are demanding total transparency, clean labels and organic, gluten-free, locally sourced and fresh products. Many of the Millennials expect nothing less when it comes to the food and beverages they consume.

While consumer demands shift, reducing meal prep time will remain a priority for most working people. The growing snacking versus meals trend supports this point.

When my friends complain about the food processing industry, I respond that we’re moving in the right direction and provide a list all of the things we’ve accomplished in recent years: the reduction of artificial colors and ingredients, fat and sugar in many products; the numerous organic and gluten-free offerings now available; and the strides processors have made in cutting water usage, achieving zero landfill status, decreasing the use of packaging materials and other sustainability efforts. Plus, I remind them that we still have the safest food supply in the world, and maintaining that status continues to be priority number one for food and beverage makers as well as suppliers to the industry.

The challenge is giving consumers fresh foods and cleaner labels while simultaneously providing the same standards of quality and safety. But giving them what they want may not always come at an affordable price.

One final note: Food Engineering has recently completed the program for the 2016 Food Automation & Manufacturing Conference, scheduled for April 10-13 in Fort Myers, FL. Visit to view our line-up of speakers from General Mills, Abbott Nutrition, Unilever, MillerCoors, Nestlé, Sierra Nevada Brewing, SugarCreek and more.