I was invited by Fira de Barcelona to speak at the presentation of Alimentaria 2016 to the international media. In my talk, I described the consumers and the society that the food industry will be facing in the coming years. It’s no trivial matter: Europe has the world’s most highly developed food and agriculture industry. The nine largest companies in the sector move €227 billion each year and employ 750,000 workers.
These are great times to be in the food business, as the general manager of one such company told us at Desayunos ESADE. The future will be built on three main market segments:
- Emerging countries, which are eager to consume calorie- and protein-rich diets
- Aging baby boomers, who are looking for healthy foods associated with major changes in the way we produce food and beverages
- Millennials, the new commanders of food, eager to discover new things
In all three cases, however, there’s a “big chill”: the unstoppable shift to fresh and refrigerated foods. Studies by Technomics and MSI have found that 87% of adults feel that fresh foods are healthier, 80% believe they are tastier, and 78% are making a strong effort to eat more fresh versus processed foods.
Fresh products versus processed food: that’s the challenge for big food producers in marketing terms. “How can we remake ourselves?” (Smuckers CEO); “Big has become bad” (ConAgra CEO); “We understand that increasing numbers of consumers are seeking authentic, genuine food experiences, and they are sceptical of the ability of large food companies to deliver them” (Campbell Soup CEO).
The idea of “processing” – from techniques of curing and salting to the modern arsenal of preservatives — arose to make sure the food we ate didn’t make us sick. Today, society fears that processed food itself is making us unhealthy.
This is a marketing challenge – “the most dynamic, disruptive and transformational time that I’ve seen in my career”, in the words of one marketing professional. Right in front of us.