The food service sector is at a crossroads. While growth has been slow and demand soft, there are still incredible opportunities— especially if you’re planning ahead for the 60% increase in food demand the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations is predicting that we’ll see by the year 2050.
A quick look at the emerging new trends in food service offer a recipe for how to get your business's share of that growth:
One Part Technological Inspiration
To see growth and to feed innovation, food producers will need to build on established approaches that have not been used to their fullest extent in the past.
At the American Farm Bureau Federation's Annual Convention in January, for example, consultant Matt Bechdol noted that now is the time to "move beyond precision ag with Big Data."
He mentioned how many farmers are now getting better information about what is growing in their fields through the use of drones. In Iowa, for instance, farmers are using the drones for crop scouting to improve plant health and increase yields.
Another area ripe for innovation is apps, especially wearables.
According to Time Magazine, the market for items like the FitBit, Nike Fuel, Jawbone Up, iHealth and others is growing by 20% every year. These items help people track health and diet information such as calories consumed, exercise levels and blood pressure.
These apps are collecting information, but no system is yet in place to gather information in one place to get better information about customers' health and their food preferences. Providing consumers with an app or website where they can submit their information and get healthful recipes and menu suggestions in return could give those in the food industry access. And, at the same time, it can create more brand awareness and help build relationships with new groups of health-conscious clientele.
Two Parts Respect for Customers' Tastes
Modern food consumers are becoming increasingly sophisticated. They care where their food comes from and are more willing than ever to try new things. The most successful trends in food service will be those that honor customers' new and evolving tastes and food concerns.
The National Restaurant Association performs an annual forecast of menu trends. New trends in food service for 2014 included:
- Locally sourced meat, seafood and produce.
- Environmentally sustainable foods.
- Gluten-free foods
- Children's nutrition and healthful meals for kids
- Farm and estate branded items
Those interviewed agreed that these are all trends that are not simple fads; they will continue to influence food service for at least the next decade.
“The American Culinary Federation chefs who took part in the survey understand that sourcing locally and environmental sustainability tie in with ongoing efforts to provide more healthful foods for everyone, especially children,” said ACF national president Thomas Macrina.
One Part Daring
In their report on the future of food service, Rabobank opined that a lack of daring was holding the food industry back. "Doing things like we used to do is no longer a great option," said Rabobank global strategist Justin Sherrard. "I do think there is a need to do things differently."
Ideas suggested in the report included the adoption of big data, growing the aquaculture sector and improving the ways that suppliers and buyers work together.
The slow growth but wide potential in the food industry's future means that there is plenty of opportunity for those who are able to embrace it. By exploring new technologies, listening more closely to consumers and being willing to explore new ideas, food industry companies can anticipate and respond to new food trends and build future success for their firms.