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Food & Beverages: The Four Industry Drivers

Posted on August 20th, 2020 in Industry News

With the global food and beverages (F&B) sector poised for enormous growth to satisfy increasing populations and consumer demands, manufacturers need to find ways to leverage emerging trends to keep their business competitive.

Tech firm ABB’s recent whitepaper A taste of the future – understanding what’s driving food & beverage in 2020 and beyond outlined the main global and consumer trends that are expected to characterise the sector over the next few years and the four key drivers underpinning them, namely:

  • Transparency
  • Sustainability
  • Novelty
  • Convenience

1. Transparency

Industry experts surveyed by ABB emphasised the importance of transparency for maintaining trust with consumers, suppliers and industry regulators in today’s connected age. This impacts on all areas of a business, from the C-suite to packaging and marketing.

Artificial intelligence (AI)

Automating processes improves productivity and sustainability while reducing errors, all of which can help small businesses to compete more effectively and large brands to regain lost consumer trust.

Improved quality control at all stages reduces complaints and more importantly keeps customers safe, especially crucial in the current health crisis.

AI sensors that are capable of learning can help businesses to lower their energy costs and shorten production timelines while also collecting real-time data for transparency.

Blockchain data

Data stored in a blockchain network is immutable and available to anyone with appropriate permission, showing a manufacturer’s transparency and trust in its stakeholders.

As real-time data storage can highlight safety issues before they become more serious, it’s estimated that increasing adoption of blockchain systems could save F&B businesses around US$31 billion per year.

Smart labelling

‘Smart’ packaging labels that can be scanned by smartphones and other sensors give consumers and retailers more information than it’s possible or convenient to include on traditional packaging.

From sell-by dates to warnings over possible allergies, consumers can see the information they need at a glance.

Retailers and warehouses can also organise items by use-by date more efficiently, helping to reduce the amount of food waste going to landfill and working towards the circular economy.

2. Sustainability

F&B businesses can no longer afford to ignore environmental issues, with many consumers choosing brands based on their green credentials and government and industry regulations clamping down harder on emissions.

Sustainable supply chains

From manufacturing to distribution, F&B businesses should ensure that all stages of production are as efficient as possible to minimise unnecessary waste and emissions.

This is likely to see more businesses using local producers to reduce the need for long-distance transport and efficient models such as vertical farming that require less land and water to produce the same yields.

Drone deliveries

As more consumers embrace ecommerce to order food and beverages directly to their homes, transport requirements (and refrigeration) will increase. To avoid significantly increasing their carbon footprint, F&B brands can explore electric vehicles and the more novel alternative of drone delivery.

As of September 2019, retailers and manufacturers in 44 countries have either introduced or considered implementing drone delivery to save on costs and help them to meet emission targets.

Sustainable packaging

More ecommerce deliveries means consumers are having to manage more food packaging than ever before, and this is making environmental concerns harder to ignore.

The plastic backlash has reduced during the coronavirus pandemic, but manufacturers and retailers should expect to see it return in full force later. Consumers post-COVID will expect packaging to be both sustainable and safe, which may require research and development of new packaging materials.

3. Novelty

As well as demanding transparency and sustainability from businesses, consumers are increasingly seeking new experiences. F&B brands need to pay attention to emerging trends among their target consumers or influence their own trends through effective market research and social listening.


Today’s consumers expect brands to cater to their specific needs, whether it’s for taste, avoiding allergies and intolerance or the trend for ‘functional’ foods with ingredients claimed to help reduce stress, enhance memory and other health and wellness benefits.

Automating processes can make it easier for manufacturers to diversify their product ranges and cater to a broader range of consumer demands than previously.

Retailers can introduce personal touches in stores such as on-site greenhouses that invite consumers to pick fresh produce themselves.

4. Convenience

Coronavirus lockdowns aside, consumers are spending less time cooking at home than ever, increasing demand for convenient foods that don’t compromise on quality.

Direct to consumer deliveries

As more consumers embrace the convenience of online food shopping and takeaway orders, many manufacturers will find it more efficient to deal directly with customers rather than through the intermediary of a large retailer.

Moving to a delivery model is no small task, but introducing automation, drone deliveries and other solutions addressed across these categories can make the transition easier and help even the smallest food business to stay competitive.

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