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It is believed that food forms a part of the base of Maslow’s Need Hierarchy, but over the years food has grown as a technology and has so many big facets associated with it- agriculture and stewardship, manufacturing and branding, distribution and logistics, retail and information, consumption and taste, and disposal and renewal. By the year 2020, all these areas will be at a stage of disruption or will be impacted by disruptions in some way or the other. This calls for all the stakeholders in the food industry to buckle up and take strategic decisions with constant innovations in the existing business models. The future of food will take shape in a world where biodiversity is declining, the climate is changing, infectious diseases are spreading more widely and rapidly, and global food sourcing is raising safety and sustainability concerns. Some of the crucial disruptions which are going to impact the food technology industry in the next five years are illustrated below:
- Amplifying food experiences, straining ecological capacities: Foods that were once local, seasonal, and occasional can now be found in almost any part of the world at almost any time of year. But this global demand for novel and tasty foods (persistent in some regions and emerging in others) is straining ecological resources, contributing to rising obesity rates, and radically altering traditional methods of food. Maintaining a richness and variety of tastes while keeping food system activities sustainable will become an acute challenge.
- Seeking food safety, encountering a crisis of faith: Food contamination is a constant horror in the modern food system, threatening human health and along with it brands, intermediaries, retailers, and entire food sectors. Other longer-term threats loom from the evolution of contaminant organisms. With fewer people producing their own food, and with the physical distance between food production and consumption increasing due to urbanization, distrust of the origins and safety of food is high and mounting across the globe. As a result of growing public scrutiny, national and international regulators have become increasingly concerned with food safety issues. Urban residents who rarely encounter food production or processing are demanding more information about their food to assuage their fears and may also choose to eat packaged foods in the belief that packaging indicates sanitary conditions.
- Confronting a nutritional gap, embracing enhancements: Food is intertwined with our health in ever more palpable and striking ways. Rates of food-related chronic health problems such as obesity, heart disease, and diabetes have skyrocketed in recent years. Recent data from the World Health Organization shows that more than 1 billion people worldwide are overweight, including 300 million people who are obese. At the same time, growing awareness of food and health is contributing to new practices involving consuming food as a form of health, wellness, and medicine. The contribution of food producers and retailers to individual and community health and well-being is becoming increasingly critical to food choices, policy, and brand identity.
- Facing the hungry, seeking reliable supplies: Increasing volatility in the cost of food commodities is disrupting both the global quest to end hunger and the sourcing of food ingredients. Long-term pressures of population growth, rising incomes, and accompanying dietary transitions collided with acute global shifts: high oil prices, biofuel crop inflation, and unprecedented commodity speculation. Food manufacturers, in particular, will be challenged to develop consistent, scalable recipes in the face of jittering, undependable supplies.
- Striving for food security, finding volatility: Food security generally refers to the rights of individuals to get the food they need to live healthy, active lives, and embraces the rights of neighbourhoods, regions, and nations to have enough food to be self-sustaining. Struggles to assure food security in the face of food price volatility and supply concerns are taking conflicting forms. The conflicting interests of these stakeholders will propel market volatility and global food supply disruptions over the next decade.
All these disruptive shifts along with many more are going to challenge the growth curve of food technology industry in the next five years. While these disruptions have been building over decades, many of their impacts are only now becoming apparent.
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