Global trends in the food sector

This morning I attended an excellent Food & Grocery Council-sponsored seminar by Professor David Hughes of Imperial College, an expert in food marketing.

He spoke about global trends in the food sector.

Here are, what I thought were, the key points.

1.       It’s a tough industry to be in, across the world. Big Food and Drink companies are under extreme pressure and so are their retail partners. These Companies are scrambling for growth. They are seeing a torrent of new start-ups, often millennial led and story led.  So, venture capital vehicles have been created to sit under some Big Food companies such as General Mills to identify and grow disruptive brands. Epic Bars ( is a good example. Big Food are in particular seeking natural, artisan connections. Examples include Blue Bottle Coffee ( and Yooji (,

2.       While globally there is no growth in supermarkets or hyper markets there is growth in discount (Aldi and Lidl - but they also have excellent premium ranges), convenience and online.  South Korea, UK, mainland China and Taiwan are leading the way in online grocery shopping

3.       There is a growing interest in food to go (delivered as well as outlets) e.g. McDonald’s using UberEATS.  This has seen the rise of “dark kitchens” where restaurants lease space to build a second kitchen just to service their food to go customers.  Food to go outlets are also growing.

4.       “Flexitarians” are on the rise. These are meat limiting and meat reducing customers, usually younger, higher earning women who are part time vegetarians, driven by health. Flexitarians see the benefits as lower fat, higher fibre, extra vegetables.   As a result, there has been a huge interest in plant-based proteins and foods

5.       The protein market is expanding. But not necessarily in meat.  The sale of Dairy milk drinks is plunging. Plant based milks are on the rise. Examples include Pea milk like “Ripple” (

6.       There is a rise in the use of animal cells to grow leather (e.g. Zoa which will have a huge impact on the global meat industry.

7.       There are a growing number of single person households, which means food for one offerings are on the rise.

8.       Snackified eating is on the rise. That means that the concept of three meals a day is moving to mini meals or snacks. As a result, the importance of meat as a centrepiece of an evening meal is under threat.

9.       Consumers have an increased focus on health and product origin.  A decade ago, 1% of foods had ethical or health claims; now it is 25%.

10.   Consumers are seeking value...not just price but also social value. That includes not just taking into account, in their buying choices, the health of the family but also the health of their community and of the planet itself. As a result, they are seeking transparency and assurances. Hence the use of block chain by, for example Carrefour, in relation to traceability.

11.   The anti-plastic movement is gaining ground.

12.   By 2025, 25 % of grocery purchases will be via voice assistance such as Alexa

Peter StubbsComment