"The Future of Food" Convention - Insights & Thoughts

A few weeks ago I attended and presented at the Australian Institute of Food Science and Technology's (AIFST) 50th Anniversary Convention The Future of Food at ICC Sydney. The Convention hosted a great variety of presentations on current areas of interest to the food industry, along with some thought provoking perspectives on health and nutrition. Here are my top three takeouts from the conference:

1. How consumers define health is changing. In his presentation on understanding the iGeneration and Millenials, Justin Nel from Mintel highlighted that for younger generations, good health is no longer about what your weight is, or the results obtained from a visit to the GP, but rather it's defined by a broader perspective that encompasses living an overall healthy lifestyle. Eating a balanced diet and getting enough sleep are seen as key - along with cooking at home. This indicates a swing back to balance and simplicity, and away from more complex or hard to follow hipster food trends.  

Implications & opportunities: traditionally, food marketers have drawn on the physical aspects of food, such as nutritional content or the absence of certain ingredients, to highlight health values. Current and future opportunities lie in broadening the definition of 'health' to incorporate the role of food in mind health and the important social aspects of eating together as part of an overall healthy lifestyle approach.

2. Working with values drives trust. Craig Heraughty, National Agribusiness Leader at Price Waterhouse Coopers, presented the closing keynote on day 1 which centred around trust, transparency and the bigger game. He said that unless you are adding value in a value chain you don't deserve to be in it. It’s therefore important to think about what your value proposition is. With health and nutrition being one of the key values driving consumer purchasing decisions, it is imperative that food businesses develop values around health and nutrition and identify how these values need to be applied in their business to remain competitive in the future. 

Implications & opportunities: while transparency helps address the trust issue, communicating with values is also a key driver. Gaining clarity on your values around health and nutrition in order to resonate and connect with consumers now and in the future is an important strategic activity for food businesses.

3. Solving food problems makes good business sense. The presentation by Brianna Casey from Foodbank was one of my highlights of the conference. With 1 in 6 Australians experiencing food insecurity, individuals and businesses have a responsibility to address food waste and food loss in particular. It makes good social and business sense for food companies to be part of the solution. 

Implications & opportunities: with more people today looking to work for businesses with a purpose, food companies have the opportunity to boost staff loyalty and team morale by getting involved in solving food related problems. Examples include helping address food insecurity, food waste and food loss and making it easier for people to eat better.