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All in all, the food sector has been heavily impacted in the last few months during the COVID-19 global pandemic and changes in consumer behavior we are seeing across sectors, will most definitely not skip the global food sectorTalent Garden has been focusing on the sector of FoodTech and sustainability headed in the Isola campus in Milan. A vertical campus which brings together the Italian ecosystem to promote and create excellence in all the areas where food, sustainability and technology meet. A part of the efforts in creating an Italian leadership in the market, we have partnered with leaders in the industry such as Accenture, Barilla, Blu 1877, Coldiretti, Future Food Institute, Electrolux, Lavazza, Unilever, Var Group, Gambero Rosso in order to promote collaboration and push forward opportunities.  As part of the activity with our Italian Food Leaders, during a recent online session, I had the opportunity to sit down with Sue Nelson to hear thoughts on what the world is seeing now, how consumers are behaving and how this historical moment will change what we eat and how we eat in the future. Sue, an expert in the world of Food has been recently named as one of the Top 20 Global Food & Agri Influencers and Thought Leaders and is a renowned expert on food tech, food and agri innovation. We are happy to share what Sue shared with us, her ideas and insights - one of which is that home baking is here to stay! 

Current Behavior: what will it mean? 

What is changing in our consumer behavior and how do you see this affecting the way we eat in the future?  Sue Nelson: Cooking at home has become a huge part of the way we live and it looks like we will be doing it more and more. Social distancing has also made us appreciate more the moments we share together at home, the same can be said for the effects of working from home, which is now more and more a norm. As such, people are searching more and more for guidance on how and what to cook. What will we eat in the future? With this in mind we are also seeing how we have become more concerned about food safety and are likely to continue with this behaviour in which we want to know where our food is coming from, how it has been treated and what it is that we are putting in our bodies. We will be requiring much more transparency from end to end, which will make the information we see on food labels essential to our buying.  In addition to that, we are also seeing a high increase in online shopping from generations which before the crisis did not normally use digital tools, increasing the range of consumers for these products.  Another thing that we are seeing is an increase in the number of vegetarians and vegans, full time or part time, which has a lot to do with the consumer trust in meat, which most probably will also accelerate plant based and protein based food

Data, logistics and consumers: is this the future? 

In your view, what will be the biggest trends in Food as we move into a new future?  Sue Nelson: In essence the main trends that the market will be looking to answer are Food Analytics and Food Waste.  Big data is taking a center stage in all industrial sectors. In food however we are seeing that it can be used in two different, yet equally interesting ways; Food Analytics and Food waste. Think how we can help reduce food waste by analyzing consumer behavior and also have the ability to possibly predict behavior based on the growth of online activity and the data collected there. In addition to that, data will be used to analyse the products and what they are made of that will be able to answer the need for food safety and transparency. The last application on analysis and data will be applied to all the back end production, the automation of processes and logistics will help consumers also get the comfort of the safety and health of the supply chain and in the end of the day, of what they are consuming.  The future is also made out of more personalized food answering different consumer needs, gluten free, sugar free, dairy free, all of these will be a huge part of the future of food. As such, we are also seeing natural, local solutions that are coming into place and will increase their share of the market. 

What’s next? 

What are some of the most interesting innovative solutions you have seen recently? Sue Nelson: One space to watch, will be in the world of Agritech and biodiversity. The interesting market we are seeing in growth is food which will be based on insects and protein.  One of the interesting trends we are seeing is also in home farming. How can we grow our own crop in our fridge? Some of these technologies will be answering the issues of food safety by creating in-door growing environments that allow consumers to consume fresh, healthy, clean food. As a conclusion, we can all agree that the food and agriculture sectors will be changing in the months and years to come. However, what we can be sure of, is that change will bring food and technology together to answer consumer needs and create a more sustainable ecosystem - Stay tuned!
Article updated on: 09 August 2023
Talent Garden
Written by
Talent Garden, Digital Skills Academy

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