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Ingredients

A look into food's future

4/13/2017  By Jeannie Swedberg

 

Recently at a Consumer Direct (think e-commerce) food conference held at the Google offices in Chicago, a researcher from Technomic was making the case for why meal kits and their ilk are gaining so much attention and capitol in the food space these days, and what it's going to take for them to be successful. The conclusions were that consumer direct organizations would have to offer:

Greater degree of specialization and ethnic offerings – interest is greatest among consumers who want specialized dietary options both from a health and wellness perspective and global cuisines.

  • More advanced customization – subscription services although growing in acceptance are still a barrier; also people want to be able to customize selections to their personal tastes or household needs.
  • Daypart and occasion expansion – most meal kit offerings are dinner-centric.
  • Value options – need to educate users to value – cost per meal, spoilage, etc.

If you've not been paying much attention to the meal kit segment, because mail order meals are not new, and they've only ever had limited success, the category might be worth another look. There's a lot of investment and activity in the space. Blue Apron, which is just shy of five years old is shipping eight million meals per month and just acquired Bill Niman Ranch, a specialty meat and poultry company. And competitor HelloFresh is on a similar growth trajectory.

Next gen consumers

As you can imagine, being at Google there was a lot of discussion about technology interfaces, automation, bots, drones, and artificial intelligence. According to the Gartner 2017 Forecast for Digital Disruption, by 2020 – 100 million consumers will shop in augmented reality. And the average person will have more conversations with bots than with their spouse.

So what will the average person be conversing about? If these predictions are correct, some of the conversations will be about what's for dinner... and lunch...and other food occasions. Bots will be managing household food inventories and placing meal orders.

Interestingly the leading 'wired' consumers of the future were forecast by Technomic to be Gen Z not the much-vaunted Millennials. Gen Z will eventually be bigger than Millennials. While only about a quarter of all consumers order food for delivery once a week, nearly half of Gen Z does. It was also heartening to hear food procuring duties of the future will be undertaken by both women and men.