We have seen healthy eating and nutrition declarations on food leading the forefront of opportunities in food marketing in recent years. This will definitely continue as a key trend, particularly in light of continued government advice on diet and healthy snacks. But, additionally, food will be seen as an extension of our lifestyle and personality; where quirky and original products will be sought after, alongside populism via social media.
This will provide opportunities particularly given the restrictiveness of the EU Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation where only authorised health claims in specified formats can be made on foods or ingredients that meet the strict criteria and the rigid specifications for any nutritional claim. Products with unusual combinations and distinctive flavours / origins will gain prominence. For example, the success enjoyed by the promotion of the Unicorn Frappuccino by Starbucks.
Innovation within the processing of food itself will also be key. There are undoubted pressures on recruitment of sufficient workers (particularly seasonal workers) and the need for efficiencies throughout the production process; therefore innovation in technology and automation in food production will be seen. This may in turn result in the need for investment by companies/continued merger and acquisition activity in the industry.
2. Welfare …of both workers and animals
Last year marked the first year when all companies covered by the UK Modern Slavery Act 2015 (MSA) must prepare and publish an annual slavery and human trafficking statement. Therefore, the publication of these will gain greater exposure and scrutiny this year. Even if companies are not directly affected it is likely that their business customers will be and they will require information and audits from their suppliers in order to fulfil MSA requirements.
Conditions and safety of employees are also a priority. The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) launched unannounced inspections from 2nd January to review health and safety standards in food manufacturing businesses nationwide. Inspections are to focus on the two main causes of ill health; occupational asthma, for example from exposure to flour dust in bakeries, grain mills etc and musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) from manual handling activities and repetitive tasks.
Animal welfare will continue to be a consumer priority. This underlies quality and supply chain as well as ethical concerns. Defra is consulting until 31 January on its draft Animal Welfare (Sentencing and Recognition of Sentience) Bill. The draft Bill reflects the principle of animal sentience in domestic law and increases the maximum sentences for animal cruelty tenfold, from 6 months to 5 years in England and Wales.
Welfare will be a priority in trade negotiations in order to ensure future food imports meet UK standards and to protect British producers. It is also likely to form a key ‘public good’ in Environment Secretary, Michael Gove’s, new proposals to reward farmers for environmentally friendly practices after Brexit rather than the current EU common agricultural policy (CAP) where farmers are paid based on the amount of land they farm.
3. Supply chains and Transparency
There will be a premium attached to shorter transparent supply chains. UK schemes such as the Red Tractor that combine this with quality standards and welfare will continue to do well.
Companies will have an eye on Brexit and potential future market conditions and tariffs as to where and how their food is sourced and produced.
4. Environment and Sustainability
Climate change and reducing waste will form central themes for 2018. This will take the form of popularity of locally sourced seasonal products and those that can show some ‘green’ credentials in the form of carbon footprint, reduction in water usage, sustainable energy in production etc. Added to the consumer interest and potential cost savings, British producers might also be advised to prepare for a ‘green Brexit’ where farming subsidies may in future be linked to good environmental practices.
Also an increased look at packaging; both in reducing excess and in intelligent packaging that may increase shelf life. The balance between ensuring quality and assessment of best before and use by dates and schemes for reducing waste will be in prominence this year.
5. Brands & Tradition
Alongside Brexit and a move towards shorter supply chains there will be an ongoing nostalgia in food. Those with well-known brands will be able to capitalise on their historic appeal. New products with reference to traditional recipes or values will also do well.
...Of course, these are predictions only, the most vital overriding objective for this fast moving industry will, as always, be responsiveness and responsibility.
Wishing all our clients and contacts a prosperous and (food) safe 2018.