Consumers today, are highly aware and vocal about their preferences, especially when it comes to health. Food plays an important aspect of a healthier lifestyle and there is an increasing trend to move towards organic and natural foods, placing higher demands on Food & Beverage (F&B) industry players to innovate faster, adopt technology and invest in the next frontier of Health & Wellness - Future of Safer Food. Interestingly, technology not only plays a role beyond just safer food, but it also plays a role in creating distribution efficiencies, standardization of manufacturing processes, and more convenient consumption.
CDC estimates that each year roughly 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases. Regardless of the cause of contamination, product recalls impact a company's revenues, profits, brand reputation, market share, and even potential loss of operations. At the same time, heavily publicized outbreaks have raised awareness of the need to ensure food quality and safety. According to separate surveys conducted by Deloitte Consulting LLP and Gallup Inc. recently, about 60% of Americans have avoided certain foods or brands because of a recall. Now, combine that with shifting demographic patters, where global population over the age of 60 will be 1.2B in few years, and the challenge of safer food supply & demand is even more significant.
While government bodies, like the Food and Drug Administration are driving the need for traceability improvements in food safety, the need of the hour is to shift the focus of food safety strategies from responsive to preventive approach. And that can happen only if consumer goods (CG) companies enhance focus on two critical elements - Governance and Technology. With globalization of operations and movement of packaged food across borders, the regulatory landscape becomes tricky to navigate but good governance with global, consistent supply chain can help immensely.
Let's talk about how technology is helping reimagine and redefine the Future of Food. Consider some of the innovation happening across the value chain - Farming is getting transformed where urban communities will be able to grow crops with minimal water/soil; social technology platforms are automating tasks and cutting middlemen; direct to consumer devices like Soda Stream are enabling people to create soda at home (K-cup is another good example of precision brewing), initiatives like ColaLife delivers nutritional supplements to remote regions using unused supply chain capacity. Disruption is even more drastic when it comes to convenient shopping and eating, with virtual supermarkets, electronic forks and smart connected vending devices.
Adopting technology faster can help CG companies get a single view of supply chains, accelerate precision farming, track outbreaks, automate food safety testing & manage online reputation during crisis. Consumer tastes and preferences are changing - as an example - high protein snacks have become mainstream. Leveraging predictive analytics for contaminant detection or providing transparency will become critical. While advances in agriculture, supply chain, manufacturing and shopping continue to drive the next frontier of Health & Wellness, these need to be balanced with food safety concerns and risk management as preferences and tastes are redefined and rewired.
In what other areas can technology play a critical role in health and wellness? Please share your thoughts in the section below.