If food and beverage companies want 20/20 vision, then they must go beyond product to deliver services and experiences that are entirely relevant to the individual consumer when it really matters.
As companies plan for the year ahead, here are three trends to watch:
1. Help Me Be My Best Me
What is food for? Do we eat to live? For pleasure? Or is it for something more? What we consume is going up the hierarchy of needs, moving beyond meeting basic requirements, becoming instead a route to self-actualization. Food today is about helping us become the best we can be.
Look at the communities who are biohacking their bodies through precision nutrition. Modern technologies enable unprecedented levels of analysis into the relationship between food and an individual’s genetics and biometrics. By carefully selecting what they consume based on their particular physiological and mental needs, wellness-focused consumers are using food to directly improve their mood and optimize their physical and mental health.
Take microbiome and DNA analysis for example. Companies such as Viome use intelligent technologies to analyze the unique makeup of an individual’s gut bacteria and provide personalized nutrition recommendations. Habit, a DNA testing company, uses an individual’s genomic data and the latest nutrigenetic science to offer bespoke food recommendations and nutrition advice. And pharmaceutical company Second Genome has developed a proprietary microbiome platform to identify effective peptides, proteins and small molecule therapeutics that can address unmet medical needs.
When combined with advances in internet of things connectivity and wearables, the possibilities really open up. The app that not only tells you what food you’re out of, but also recommends exactly what you should be eating to be your very best self? With real-time sensors and machine learning now able to provide a stream of insights into both the foods being eaten and the health of the person eating them, that’s a real possibility.
2. Local Goes Hyperlocal
In 2020, more and more of us will be looking to slim down the intensity and environmental footprint of modern digital living. We’re seeking more sustainable, more hands-on, more tangible experiences wherever we can find them. That’s bringing food production ever closer to the home. Local is going hyperlocal.
Thanks to huge advances in technology, and pervasive digitalization, hyperlocal precision horticulture is becoming a viable option for everyone, even on a microscale. It opens up the possibility for us all to grow food with reliable results, no matter how little outside space we have—or time to spare.
FarmBot, for instance, has created “humanity’s first open source CNC (computer numerical control) farming machine." The horticultural startup’s unique combination of fully automated hardware and digital platform allows customers to plan and grow their own food in their own spaces according to their own needs. Sowing, watering, weeding, harvesting—innovations such as FarmBot offer the prospect of labor-free home farming for all.
Consider, too, how Infarm is bringing high-tech modular farming to food production. The indoor farming company created a cloud-based farming platform that learns, adjusts and improves itself continuously, so each plant grows better than the one before. It can re-create growing conditions from around the world, bringing plants that were previously too delicate, rare or expensive to consumers.
Hyperlocal networks present new opportunities for convenience and radical innovation. Take Alibaba-owned Ele.me—rough translation, “Are you hungry?”—which is leveraging China’s mobile-first economy to rapidly expand its local logistics services to deliver meals (and now other products) across the country. It’s a win-win for consumers, who get fast delivery to their door, and local restaurants, who get access to a larger, digital customer base.
For Alibaba, the aggregated data Ele.me provides is a potential gold mine of new insights into hyperlocal patterns of consumer tastes and behaviors. It’s also a low-risk but super-agile way to test out new food concepts and ideas, using individual restaurants to explore which innovations work in one locality before scaling up nationally.
3. Package Good
The growing climate crisis will put increasing pressure on many of the agricultural and production methods used in today’s food system, while driving consumer demand for new solutions that mitigate the negative impact on climate and the environment.
Smart brands are responding by looping the circular economy into the heart of the home. Loop, for example, is helping brands streamline the process of recycling product packaging. Using the traditional “milkman” model, Loop’s circular shopping platform means brands can package products in durable, multiuse materials, which are delivered to the customer at the same time as any empties are picked up for cleaning and reuse.
Technological innovation is likely to be crucial in bringing about real change. Consider how “invisible barcodes” might revolutionize plastic recycling efforts. Identifying the precise form of plastic used in a product has always been a challenge for recycling facilities, but this new technology means items can potentially be scanned and sorted far more easily.
What’s more, by leveraging rapid advances in internet of things technologies, brands are now able to embed sensors into reusable packaging to both reduce the carbon footprint and provide new personalized services.
For example, Water.Io have a plastic cap that can continuously measure how much liquid, solid or powder is in the container underneath. The company is also developing a platform which can apply intelligent technologies to this kind of product usage data and develop new kinds of services to improve consumers’ health and well-being.
The water bottle that reminds you to hydrate when you need to? It’s coming sooner than you think. Indeed, the year ahead will see the continued evolution of product packaging from something that merely contains, protects and communicates to something that takes a key role in the connected ecosystem of our lives.
So, this year, expect packaging to get smarter and more sustainable. Refillable and reusable will be the order of the day. Less pretty, perhaps, but more eco-friendly. And when combined with internet of things, a vehicle for really new and exciting user-centric food services.
Make 2020 the Year to Deliver Relevance At Scale
As the ground keeps moving underfoot, the successful consumer goods companies in 2020 will be those who capture the value of the rapidly evolving digital technologies and focus efforts on building a company with the capabilities to deliver relevance at scale. Getting that right will be the secret to future success and growth.
Laura Gurski is senior managing director, global lead, of Consumer Goods & Services for Accenture.