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  • Meyrick Consulting

The Future of Food & Ingredients: 2023 Predictions



The future of food and ingredients is an exciting prospect that has gained much attention in recent years. From advances in technology, such as lab-grown meat, to the increasing availability of plant-based alternatives, the way we view and consume food is changing.

As we look ahead to 2023, we can expect to see a number of exciting trends in food and ingredients. From the rise of sustainability and health consciousness to the use of technology to create healthier, more sustainable foods, the future of the food and ingredients industry looks bright.

As the industry continues to evolve, so too will the way we produce, purchase, and consume food, leading to a more sustainable and healthier future for generations to come.

So what are the main trends, changes and challenges the industry will see over the next 12 months?

Sustainability

The future of food is one that is driven by sustainability and health consciousness. As the world's population continues to increase, we must look to produce more food using fewer resources, including less land. In doing so, we have come to understand that food production must be healthy for both people and our environment. The rise of veganism, vegetarianism and flexitarianism has contributed to a rise in plant-based food production, with entrepreneurs and brands increasingly turning to plant-based ingredients. This will continue to grow as consumers become more health-conscious, with plant-based proteins providing an alternative for those who wish to limit their consumption of animal products.

Additionally, the continued awareness of ethical issues such as animal welfare, including the overuse of antibiotics and hormones in traditional animal protein production, is also leading to a demand for sustainability in food - not just from the consumer but pushed forward by innovative entrepreneurs and organisations with the desire to do it better! Feeding the planet without killing it.

Technology

Powering such rapid change in the world cannot be done without embracing the growing role of technology. Organisations now recognise the growing importance of technology and the increased ability to collect, analyse and visualise data - providing previously-unavailable insights into production, delivery and overall business processes.

We are seeing innovations in the food industry that make the production of healthy, sustainable food easier than ever before. From artificial intelligence that can be used to help optimise the growing process for vegetables to 3D printing that is now being used to produce alternative meat products and nutritious food for pets - technology is helping to build a better, healthier future for our food system.

The need for convenience will continue to increase among consumers, and technology will persist in playing an important role in bridging the gap between production and consumption. In particular, online ordering and delivery is more popular than ever (no awards for stating the obvious), but there's a new type of technology entering the food and ingredients industry.

Now organisations can develop flavours and fragrances with a heightened, more precise ability and, at pace, through data-driven olfactory systems like those developed by Aromyx.

Aromyx offers companies the unrivalled ability to design food products that target specific demographics, forecast trends ahead of their competitors and solve global issues around health and sustainability through their unique taste and smell "mapping" technology.

Whilst many may not associate the food and ingredients industry with technology, in reality, any organisation scaling at pace is employing the latest advancements in technology to help optimise new product development, distribution, cost engineering and help them better predict buyer behaviour and trends. This type of data is invaluable to any business looking to grow in the food and ingredients industry.

Autonomous vehicles are set to disrupt the food industry by making the transportation of food easier, more efficient, and more sustainable, the future of food is not just powered by human innovation and "outside the box" thinking (whilst much of the advancements in 2022 could be contributed to this) there is a real need, demand and use of AI and machine learning technology which will only increase throughout 2023.

Lab-Grown Meat & Plant-Based Alternatives

Of course, we can't publish an article on the future of food and ingredients industry in 2023 without at least mentioning lab-grown meat and alternative proteins.

Stating the obvious to many - the development of and indeed the sale of lab-grown or (cultured/cultivated) meat has expanded considerably in 2022, with several companies investing heavily in the technology that makes it possible to produce alternative proteins from animal cells. The advantages of lab-grown meat include its sustainability and the fact that it requires much less water and feed compared to traditional livestock production. This has led to many environmentalists championing the prospect of lab-grown meat, with companies such as Mosa Meat and SuperMeat receiving significant investments to help them scale up their operations.

Alongside the development of lab-grown meat, we are also seeing a rise in the production of new types of plant-based alternatives for a variety of foods. The increasing popularity and availability of almond milk (amongst other options) shows that plant-based alternatives are becoming more widely adopted by consumers.

Climate Change

The future of food and ingredients is one that will be heavily influenced by climate change - now, I'm not going to go all "condescending-environmentalist" on you, but I can't ignore this very real problem.

It's now affecting all of our lives, so let's recognise the critical role the food and ingredients industry is "taking". I use the word "taking" here because it is the industry that is forcing change in the absence of political or economic pressures, which other sectors have been placed under.

Whilst I don't believe eradicating animal proteins from our supply chain is the answer - I do think there's a fair (and achievable) balance between alternative proteins and animal proteins that the industry can work towards.

As the planet continues to warm and extreme weather conditions become more common, we will see a continued impact on the food industry. The level of impact will, of course, vary depending on the crops, vegetables, and other ingredients, but it is certain to have a major impact on the food industry and the way we produce food - which the industry has already recognised ahead of the rest of the world.

As a result, growing conditions and the availability of certain ingredients will become less reliable, making it more challenging for businesses to produce and retailers to provide the food we traditionally consume.

Local & Organic Foods

Local and organic food production may see a rise in demand in 2023 but I'm not so convinced.

Let's not forget the unprecedented rate of inflation that we will all be feeling much more next year - so it's unlikely to increase demand for what has frequently been dubbed a "luxury product" in the past. One food expert explains the demand for organic food is expected to increase by as much as 25% in 2023.

Organic has never done well during financial downturns.

Traceability

Consumers are increasingly health-conscious, with the desire to know what ingredients are in the food they are eating, leading to an increased demand for traceability.

This is particularly true of fresh produce and meats, with consumers looking to know where their ingredients have come from and how they have been grown or reared.

Technology has played a crucial role in food traceability, with blockchain technology helping to make the supply chain transparent and easy to trace. This has boosted confidence among consumers, with many now actively looking for ways to trace the food they eat. As a result, the visibility of the supply chain is increasingly important, with businesses expected to provide more information about the origins of their ingredients to help reassure consumers that what they are eating is safe and ethically produced.

Whole foods

As research continues to publish data on how our diet can affect our longevity, mental health and overall wellness, there is a considerable expansion in demand for protein-rich whole foods that are good for our health.

This has led to the promotion of foods such as legumes, nuts, and seeds, which are already widely used in vegetarian and vegan dishes. We can expect to see an increase in the use of these ingredients in the future, with their versatility and healthfulness making them an attractive option for food producers. In particular, the ability to use new technologies such as artificial intelligence to optimise production will help to make these whole foods more accessible.

Artificial Intelligence

We can expect to see an increase in the use of artificial intelligence in food production. Through the use of AI - food production can be optimised to reduce waste and increase efficiency, making it easier for food producers to scale up their production.

The use of AI has been widely adopted in a variety of industries, not just in the food industry, with AI being used to optimise the production of traditional foods such as dairy, meat, and vegetables.

This technology is particularly prevalent in the alternative proteins industry, with many companies investing in the use of artificial intelligence to grow cultured meat.

Conclusion

The pace of change in the food and ingredients industry can be hard to keep up with, and predicting what 2023 has in store for the industry is difficult but there are a few things we can say for almost certain:

  • The appearance of new entrepreneurs with the drive, passion and innovation to save the world has been more pronounced this year than ever - we can expect more of these mind-bending innovators to enter the market in 2023.

  • Artificial Intelligence is taking over the world, and as Elon Musk said "it's too late to stop it, but I told you so". This technology is becoming more affordable and accessible, meaning we will start to see a battle of the technologies erupting. Those with more advanced tech will ascend the ranks of consumer perceptions more quickly.

  • Cultured meat will find its way into a large number of consumers' shopping trolleys. Whilst current surveys and polls say many won't try cultivated or lab-grown meat. As Henry Ford once said - "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses." Lab-grown meat is primed to take a sizable chunk of the protein market in 2023.

What challenges, threats or opportunities do you predict for the food and ingredients industry?
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