I have been attending trade shows this past summer, and it’s growing more apparent that the food world is rapidly changing, although it’s unclear how it will shake out. For the last couple of decades, this nebulous sentiment used to surround technology. Our gadgets, like cell phones, shrank until they became the medium for everything, and then they grew larger. At first, the “new thing” was texting, then it was taking selfies, and for the past few months, it’s been playing Pokémon GO.
Now the madness seems to have spread to food. Did you know you can pay a company to organize a flash mob to create a marketing buzz around a product in a store? You can. I learned that at FMI Connect. But having an actual store to shop at, yes, that’s also changing, if Amazon Fresh has anything to say about it.
Recently, I went to IFT16, and it seemed like every booth there was showcasing either a healthy product or an ingredient to make a food or beverage item healthier. I had lunch with one woman from a company that developed a plant-based oil to use in lieu of trans fats. Apparently, this innovation was gaining attention from snack companies quintessentially trying to give people their cake, but let them know it’s OK to eat it, too. I knew those 20-somethings who popularized the “snackification” trend couldn’t keep snacking forever; your metabolism slows down when you get older!
Figuring out what customers want to eat and how they will buy it is a full-time job, obviously, and there is an army of people trying to do just that. But who knows if they are right? That insect food trend popped up on a few prediction lists last year and has yet to catch on. Research firms, like Innova Market Insights, say consumers are looking for more exotic and global flavors. But how do you know when a product is a little too offbeat and won’t be accepted by Middle America?
Maybe your company is dealing with the dizzying effects of the current evolving marketplace and having similar discussions as this goes to print. If you are, good luck.