In recent years, the growing attention to environmental issues, health, and quality of life, combined with the greater availability of information enabled by technology, have contributed to change consumer behavior. This veritable revolution in consumer habits has affected various sectors, including the food industry and the beverage market.
Knowing current consumption trends and emerging characteristics of the new consumer profile can give companies a strategic advantage. Data analysis and understanding are essential for developing competitive communication, marketing, manufacturing, and sales strategies. The development of products in line with market demands and consumer awareness offers added value and allows companies to stand out from competitors.
Leading causes of changes in consumption habits
In recent years, many ongoing trends have contributed to transforming the consumer profile. Among the factors contributing to the consumer revolution still underway:
- changes in the macro-environmental scenario, with particular attention to the democratization of Internet access and digitization;
- increasing care for individual health and wellbeing;
- the growing need for convenience in shopping due to frequently hectic and busy lives;
- the increase in concern and responsibility on environmental and social issues, linked to the awareness of intensive production systems, resource depletion, and labor exploitation.
Being aware of the current trends is fundamental for companies, which must follow these movements, adapting their commercial offers and their communication and promotional strategies to the new sensitivity of the market.
However, this adaptation process may not be easy: companies should radically transform their production and procurement process, rethinking supply, distribution, and communication chains, among others. Despite the initial adaptation effort, however, such changes can be crucial investments to keep a company in the market game.
Environmental changes and consumer behavior
Interviews on consumer behavior, studies, and field literature highlight several trends emerging in the current market. This overview allows us to highlight several opportunities and issues driving changes in the food and beverage industry. Below, we propose a summary.
An increasingly Asia-centered economy
The gravity center of the world economy is shifting once again towards Asia. The specificities of the Chinese market economy play a leading role in this phenomenon. Population growth, urbanization, and internationalization offer opportunities that companies cannot afford to ignore.
The food and juice markets are experiencing significant growth in China, India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Pakistan, and other countries. Some characteristics are common to the entire Asian continent. Between these:
- young population in growth;
- fast urbanization;
- growing income generation and distribution;
- export of valuable resources, which counteracts the lack of productive resources;
- regulations in favor of food and juice imports.
Globalized purchases, personalized experiences
The advance in digitalization and technology have accelerated socio-cultural change. In today’s scenario, information and communication flowsmove faster through the agri-food supply chains. So:
- the increasingly accessible and integrated digital world has contributed to breaking down physical, institutional and biological barriers;
- the access to the Internet and information has created a new consumer profile eager for personalization, instantaneity, transparency, and less dependence on third parties.
Food & drinks: local and traced is better
In opposition to the globalization of the market and competition, a local trend is emerging in food consumption. Dominant values include:
- preference for responsible and transparent production;
- request for traceable supply chains;
- an increasingly location-connected quality evaluation;
- monitoring of environmental and animal rights aspects (treatment and health of animals).
Furthermore, consumers prioritize quality of life: this too has contributed to changing the purchasing criteria adopted. Consumers often make their choices to save time.
Sustainability (and sharing) first
Concepts such as sustainability, responsible consumption, awareness of waste, animal welfare, and respect for the environment along the entire production chain have become recurring concerns capable of leading consumers’ purchasing choices.
Awareness of the origin and characteristics of what we eat is also growing. The current trend sees the growth of foods and drinks of natural origin (considered more genuine), nutritious, rich in fiber and proteins.
New media has also contributed to this trend in various ways, offering quick information at everyone’s fingertips. Furthermore:
- the internet and new media disseminate more and more information, allowing greater consumer empowerment and easier achievement of expert status;
- they stimulate the compulsive need to share the information received;
- they enable consumers to improve or worsen (to the point of destroying) the reputation of companies, products, and services based on their experience through public evaluation, which is a dynamic underlying the sharing economy in which we live.
The value of experience
Today, to talk about consumption, one cannot help but also evoke the idea of experience. Furthermore, some consumer products imply the attainment or consolidation of a certain level of status.
- Consumers are looking for immediate experiences suited to their lifestyle, which free up time for work or social life;
- Generic products are less and less appreciated, while recognition for quality and differentiation is growing;
- Good user data management that transmits public confidence in access to information is a prime factor in meeting this need for uniqueness and personalization.
Packaging: more than just aesthetics
Another differentiating element in consumer choices is packaging, which can strengthen the positioning of the brand in at least three different ways:
- making a product more attractive and evident on the shelves;
- providing information on the characteristics and origin of the product;
- demonstrating the company’s environmental commitment with materials that are part of the reuse, zero waste, and recycling trends.
In this context, brands that are capable of discovering unsatisfied consumer needs and meeting them are emerging from competitors.
Companies that succeed in the difficult task of intercepting trends, attuning to consumer sentiments and evolving in harmony with an increasingly dynamic market thus have a strategic advantage.
Source: FOOD AND AGRIBUSINESS in 2030 – Wageningen Academic Publishers