In their latest report on Global Food and Drink Trends 2019, Mintel highlight the ever growing food to go markets and the opportunities this presents to food manufacturers. With today’s time poor consumers looking for natural and healthy food choices together with more sophisticated flavours, Mintel predict increased demand for packaged food products that will save the consumer that valuable commodity – time. Consumers will be more willing to pay more for “upscale” packaged food, and look for ever more innovative products that are not confined just to dinner time options and that do not sacrifice on quality.
Many people now consider themselves to be foodies but may lack the time, skills or environment to actually prepare the food themselves. We are all used to seeing the incredible range of foods paraded in front of us from the many cooking shows available to watch. Our experience and expectation of flavours and styles of cooking has increased significantly, and we are prepared to pay for premium foods that complement our lifestyles. Mintel suggest that this “creates and opening for more premium convenience packaged products designed for the food obsessed generation”. Whether its breakfast on the go, healthy snacks or premium dinner kit, packaging will play its part in future food trends.
With more understanding of the damage plastics can do to our environments and the drive to rethink the way we use plastics and improve the recycling capability of packaging materials, consumers will demand more sustainable and responsible packaging in the coming years. Manufacturers will need to look towards more bio based packaging materials that can also reduce food wastage. In a move towards more sustainability, companies will need to understand that issues such as climate change and plastic pollution are important to consumers and will dictate their purchasing habits.
Mintel claim that a new generation of modern convenience food is emerging in response to the rising demand for more healthy eating options, including food products that promote long term health and wellbeing. 2019 will see more products containing ginger, turmeric or green tea extract. The anti inflammatory properties of ginger are well known along with other medicinal properties, and turmeric is linked with improved brain process and lowering the risk of brain diseases. Seniors and adults will take a more active interest in products that can enhance health and general wellbeing and will expect fresh and healthy convenience food options that don’t sacrifice taste and quality.
So what does this mean for food packaging looking forward? The demand for upscale packaged food will increase, ready to consume or food or the go solutions will rise. Convenience will not be limited to just dinner time, creating even more opportunities for every meal or snack break. Solutions that help the consumer save time, whether that be planning, shopping or preparing foods will be expected by the consumer.
Technology solutions that support this increased demand by the consumer will be of paramount importance to manufacturers. The focus on reducing expense and containing costs will be as important as ever, but not at the expense of quality. Food companies need to find ways to improve productivity throughout the plant with the use of factory automation, whether that’s in the actual processing of the food or the packaging of the food. Automation needs to evolve to meet consumer requirements, and is now a necessity in the food industry to meet the challenges of quality control, production speed and volumes, increasing and forecasted labour shortages and of course profitability. Another factor influencing the decision to automate is the food retailers constantly changing demand for choice of product on their shelves. Providing this choice could mean a totally new product, new ingredients or processing requirements, or alternative packaging design and format to meet the expectations of the more environmentally aware and discerning consumer.
Automation is essential for the food processing industry, keeping costs down and food quality up, keeping up with the pace of change while addressing the fundamental issues and challenges faced in 2019 and beyond. This means upgrading existing equipment or purchasing new equipment. That can be a huge challenge when the cost of a square foot of a food plant is so expensive and fixed base cost is considerable. It is claimed that research evidence suggests that significant opportunities exist for automation to take place. As technology gets ever more clever and the ability to process complex and differing shapes becomes easier, more opportunities for further automation will become evident. In recent years, robotic and automation equipment has steadily found its way into most food processing and packaging facilities, and is already deployed in high volumes in the food processing and packaging industry, and this trend is expected to continue over the next few years.