The last few years have been a roller coaster ride for the food and beverage business. But what's stood out is that food and beverage sales have emerged as one of the fastest-growing e-commerce categories.
Experts expect some of the trends that shaped the last couple of years to persist throughout 2021, including the lingering effects of the pandemic, the soaring popularity of CBD and hemp products, and the public’s unwavering concern for sustainability. Industry executives expect consumers to continue demanding healthy products, private-label brands, and free-from offerings for the foreseeable future.
Despite economic damage from the COVID-19 pandemic, and that many businesses remain closed or are operating at lower capacities, optimism persists. According to a survey from Mattson, a Silicon Valley food innovation and development firm, roughly half of food and beverage business leaders believe manufacturers will emerge from this crisis in better shape than before. Respondents attribute optimism to the flood of consumers returning to home cooking and a more robust supply chain.
The Mattson survey also found that innovation is still alive and well, with nearly two-thirds of companies reporting that they’re working on new concepts or products. This kind of market insight is why TraceGains had Barb Stuckey, president and chief innovation officer at Mattson, headline its 2020 virtual event.
Mattson helps clients, from startups to Fortune 500 companies, identify new food business ideas, and bring them to life with commercially viable prototypes, developing them through to market-readiness. Stuckey is also the author of “TASTE: Surprising Stories and Science About Why Food Tastes Good.”
Stuckey, who discussed food innovation trends at last year's virtual event, has ideas about what will drive growth in the food and beverage space moving forward. She expects alternative foods, or “great fakes,” as she dubs them, to see continued growth. That includes brands such as Impossible Foods, Endless West, and RightRice.
She agrees the issue of sustainability isn’t going away, especially with younger consumers increasingly concerned about climate change. The drive toward more sustainable food and beverage products includes the growing use of high-tech ingredients that enable manufacturers to do things that wouldn’t have seemed possible a few years ago.
Ingredient Innovation Explosion
“As one single example, take the consumer desire for low- and no-sugar natural products that will continue to grow in all categories, as we already see,” Stuckey wrote in a recent Forbes article. “To do this well, we need to go beyond the stevia leaf. That’s where food tech comes in.”
Stuckey suggested sugar reduction and proteins are just two markets, “experiencing an explosion of ingredient innovation,” pointing to Amyris, one example of a company that’s making an artificial sweetener with yeast.
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