The global food industry is in a state of revolution, making it more challenging than ever before for retailers and manufacturers to stay one step ahead of shoppers’ changing needs.
That was the verdict of according to Joanne Denney-Finch, chief executive of international grocery researcher IGD, who delivered the keynote speech at Food and Grocery Australia 2017 this week.
“This is a revolution in what products are sold, how they are sold and made, how shoppers choose and what society expects from a business," she told delegates. "It’s driven by technology, social and cultural change and the economy, all marching together. Shoppers and technology are moving so rapidly, many companies struggle to be only one step behind – never mind one step ahead.”
Yet this rapid pace of change also signals huge opportunities for industry, Denney-Finch continued. “In future, shoppers will have a huge choice in what, where and how we buy our food. We’ll be more spontaneous but also better planned. We’ll be experimental, eager for new products and experiences. But we’ll also have perennial favourites that we constantly rebuy, and we’ll buy many of these staples on subscription. We’ll be more health-conscious and we’ll also be armed with endless information about the companies we buy from.
“From a retailer perspective, the action centres on three big battles: food-to-go versus cook at home, online versus physical shopping and big versus small stores. In Australia, we can see that the market is reshaping, with the three ‘As’ – Aldi, Amazon and Alibaba – global forces to be reckoned with.
Denney-Finch predicted that big stores globally would be more inspirational and less clinical, featuring more fresh food and new products, with more ways to taste, learn and discover, adding that retailers will be working extra hard to differentiate themselves.
“The future will be radically different and shoppers will be in their element, with great choice, convenience and value," she outlined. "Retailers and manufacturers will be severely tested, but the best will really thrive. Right across the world, retailers know this is a time to be bold, and therefore manufacturers and suppliers need to be bold too.”
To help manufacturers and suppliers to prepare for the different future building around them, Denney-Finch outlined five key principles including the need to keep a steely focus on the changing needs of shoppers, pay more attention to technology, find common causes with retal customers, do the ordinary and extraordinary consistently well, and ensure you work with quality people.
“The global food industry needs to be bolder, to take bigger but well-calculated risks and learn how to be more agile," she concluded. "Managing through calm times is okay, but what’s really energising is delivering results during turbulence. There’s never been a greater time of opportunity. Seize the moment, be a trailblazer and shape the future.”