Appetite For Disruption – Making The Most Of The Future Of Food
Being the leader of a global food and beverage business has been anything but easy over recent years. Going back a decade, the industry had a reputation for being fairly stable and conservative, dominated by a limited number of global brands that delivered steady growth and margins. Since then, the industry has been shaken by a succession of disruptions, including sluggish demand for traditional core products, rapidly changing consumer patterns and preferences, accelerating technological developments, and evolving attitudes towards the environmental and social impacts of food production. The pandemic has added yet another ingredient to the mix, only serving to accelerate many of the trends that already existed, such as digitalization and personalization.
The business space a large food company operates in has become more complex, with an increasing degree of convergence across the different steps of the value chain from farm to fork, associating with other industries such as pharmaceuticals, logistics, appliances and kitchen automation, as well as between relevant technologies from nutrition and gene editing all the way through to digital technologies and advanced and/or smart materials. On top of this complexity, many of these enabling technologies are so-called exponential technologies: they progress very rapidly.
Setting a strategic course in this type of dynamic environment is challenging, but looking forward there are many great opportunities for breakthrough innovation to drive new growth. With this in mind, three leading companies in the food value chain commissioned Arthur D. Little’s recent acquisition, Presans, to conduct a study into future trends in the food industry, building on their own extensive knowledge. The companies were Danone, one of the top food companies in the world; Bonduelle, one of the world’s top vegetable processing companies; and SEB, the global leader in small domestic appliances.
In this article we present a high-level summary of the study, which addressed some key questions:
- What are the key trends in usage and enabling technologies?
- What could these mean for future scenarios?
- What priorities are important for companies in the food value chain to focus on?
The methodology was expert-based, following Presans’ “Synergy Factory” approach comprising three stages:
- Alignment of objectives: Understanding, refining and agreeing the objectives of the study across the three companies
- Securing experts: Identifying, qualifying and engaging top worldwide experts, starting with 935 initial expert contacts, of which 46 experts across 18 countries submitted proposals
- Collaborative implementation: With close collaboration facilitated by Presans, a series of expert reports was developed, synthesized and integrated into an overall analysis and a set of common conclusions
Based on the analysis, 24 specific trends were identified and characterized, and four future scenarios were derived relating to both changes in usage (consumer) patterns and the nature of the food value chain. At the intersection of trends in both usage and technology across the scenarios, a series of priorities were identified for food companies to focus on for future success. In this article we are able to share only the high-level results that were deemed not confidential to the three client companies. We are very grateful to Danone, Bonduelle and SEB for their inputs, cooperation, advice and active involvement in the study.
“Beyond the content generated through the Future of Food project, the collaborative approach set up by Presans with SEB and Bonduelle, two other corporate leaders in the food industry, has been exceptionally rich. This type of synergy is at the heart of Danone’s strategy and of its execution: a recent example is our partnership with the American start-up How Good, with which we have co-developed a tool to help design our recipes to understand the environmental and societal parameters linked to the ingredients used. Complementary assets and a wealth of points of view are the keys to the success of innovation in a changing world.” [Danone]
“We can’t predict the future, but we can prepare for it. Collaboration with Danone and Bonduelle, combining our respective innovation paths, allowed us all to build a broader vision and be ready for the forthcoming challenges.” [SEB]
“The magnitude of the challenges facing the food system is huge and no single player can pretend to solve it on its own. Partnering with other players like SEB or Danone is essential to envision the future of food and what opportunities could arise from bringing together technology and consumer expectations. It has proven to be very successful to share what each of us considers to be the certain future and to explore together what a not-so-certain future could look like.” [Bonduelle]