Food industry needs to further drive sustainability, innovation, and new advancements on the digital front, while catering to the demand of cleaner food products.
We have seen a slow rise in consumers opting for cleaner and healthier foods over the years, but the pandemic has substantially sped up the process. Today, roughly 60 per cent of F&B consumers consider their health when making food choices. This shift has profound effects on the supplying industry of food production.
Clean food means smaller productions, high quality ingredients, and organic farming. Knowing where your food comes from creates a bridge between farm and table. “Farm to fork” features, that ensure health aspects, enjoyment, practicality, and accessibility is what the market is advancing towards. There is increasing demand for labels like organic, clean, natural, overall healthier versions of products, clean and trustable producers. Small untouched Nordic countries have gained highly competitive advantage in food sector as they have never had intensive farming. In Estonia for example, with 40% of organic forests, most organic farming is organized around small-scale artisanal production. These sustainable practices guarantee high quality and purity of food (ranked the cleanest food in the world according to the UN’s FAO). It also ensures full traceability along the supply chain, making sure that consumers can retrace the food on the table to the individual farm that produced it.
Food for health
The health and wellness factor plays an important role in purchase decisions, and food production businesses are rapidly adapting to fit this demand. The future of food is in ingredients and products that are naturally packed with balanced nutritional value. High-protein content of grains and dairy, or the highest level of antioxidants found in wild forest berries are distinct examples of food that is in line with the consumption trends.
In many markets this means a new direction, and transformation for food suppliers – which may be a complicated task. Estonian food processors are quick to react to the shift in consumer habits and make necessary adjustments thanks to their relatively small size and innovative approach to scientific advancements. For example, technological advancements can ensure full traceability of antibiotic free raw milk all the way to the individual dairy farm, or the traceability of berries to the forest and farmland they were harvested or tracing the individual jar of honey to the individual hive that produced it. Other factors also play a role, affecting the overall F&B market in any region. These factors include natural resources, climatic conditions, air quality, farming and technological advancements.
Markets that are different and require more time to change, in terms of diversification with ecologically fresh produce – they will require import. UAE is a market that is dependent on food imports to have access to healthy, natural, clean foods. In this case offering highest quality, taste and traceability will be critical to the added variety of options that contribute to the local consumer choices, or simply to the overall success of the UAE’s Food Security strategy.
This is not to say that the shift is a focus solely on healthier options of food, there is also the requirement to deliver on taste. Creating enjoyment and good emotions will always be a crucial element in food and drinks. Providing it in a healthier option and with better taste is the ultimate key to succeeding in the current market, as it makes these options more permissible and guilt free for consumers who do not want to compromise on taste. Making drinks, snacks, chocolates, and sweets healthier and helping to ditch food guilt is the best way for winning the heart of consumers.
Daily contribution to the greener world
Sustainability will continue to remain an important point for consumers. They are more aware of the impact industries have on the world in terms of ecology, and they opt for choices that are more eco-friendly. A sustainable approach to production is becoming more valued by consumers, creating brand loyalty to ethical brands. It translates to all aspects of food production from worker conditions, to utilizing natural resources, reducing carbon emissions, to packaging and more.
While some major F&B multinationals approach sustainability from a social corporate responsibility angle, smaller scale productions offer more genuine sustainability as it is already in line with responsible farming, traceability, reduction of artificial additives, and maximization of clean labels in production.
Technology is another key element that requires innovation in the global industry and impacts how the future for manufacturing looks like. Some countries are more advanced than others in terms of digital technologies, and yet all require further developments. Technologies allow for forecasting, enhancing the processes and monitoring quality to name a few, which all create a positive impact necessary in the modern world.
With consumers focusing on health, wellness, and sustainability, the impact on food production is one that demands transformation. While this may be a difficult change, this also brings great opportunities – not just for change towards a more sustainable and healthier future, but also one of cross collaboration. From expanding export into various markets that offers consumers globally healthier options, to nations working together for advancements in technology and scientific breakthroughs, sharing professional experience in a common effort.
Marge Pihlapuu, head of international sales unit – Enterprise Estonia