- Plant-based foods, particularly dairy, are a sweeping industry trend with both cost and health implications that could upturn long-dominant categories, Adam Lowry, co-founder and co-CEO of pea-based milk maker Ripple Foods, said at Fortune's recent Brainstorm E summit. Plant-based dairy is inherently lower-cost than traditional dairy, he said, so as plant-based companies like Ripple Foods scale, they can pass those cost savings onto consumers, which will further drive category growth.
- While locally-sourced foods haven't surpassed organic food sales, the demand is stronger, Paul Lightfoot, CEO at BrightFarms, said at the Fortune summit. He anticipates local foods to see a similar growth pattern in the coming years, spurred by companies like BrightFarms, which develops greenhouse farms at or near supermarkets.
- The call for transparency has also become stronger as consumers become more interested and concerned about what goes into the products they buy. "Product trumps brand," said Suzanne Ginestro, chief marketing and innovation officer for Campbell Fresh, a subset of Campbell Soup, at the Fortune summit.
Consumers' easy access to plentiful data and the increase in two-way dialogue between manufacturers and consumers have highlighted the need for greater transparency and focus on product and ingredient quality, Ginestro said. Campbell led the charge for GMO labeling among major manufacturers ahead of the Vermont mandatory labeling law, and the company recently committed to discontinue use of BPA in its packaging.
According to Lightfoot, the growth of locally-sourced foods to meet increasing demand will be about manufacturers forming partnerships with retailers: "Local is often a marketing strategy, not a supply chain strategy," he said.
Manufacturers have begun highlighting locally-sourced ingredients in marketing to better connect consumers with products. General Mills' Cascadian Farms brand recently underwent a packaging overhaul that highlighted its farm roots to promote the brand's backstory and authenticity. That included a "Visit Our Home Farm" stamp on the label that encourages consumers to learn more about the product's ingredients.
But by partnering with retailers and working closely with suppliers, manufacturers can adjust supply chains to make local ingredient sourcing possible but also profitable while boosting sales in a fast-growing segment.
Other trends discussed at a recent industry event in London included U.S. entrepreneurs as leaders of industry innovation; use of foods' genome to ensure safety; decentralized distribution delivery models that reduce food waste; data-driven content and product experiences tailored for the consumer; and increased transparency thanks to the growth of e-commerce.