The Food and Beverages (F&B) industry is hungry for innovation due to advances in food science and technology space and a discernible consumer shift towards healthy food. The digital revolution is transforming the world of food and beverages. The smart phone has empowered the consumers, helping them to undertake business on-the-move and choose products that resonate with their changing lifestyles. Technology is modifying behavioral patterns and orchestrating the move towards holistic health. There is a growing attraction for food that promotes health, strengthens immunity and prevents diseases. Eating options that are low-fat, low-sugar and devoid of empty calories, are the flavor of the season. The emphasis on health transcends generations today, with even the young parents demanding healthy food for their children.
The society at large is moving from accumulating things (think, stamp collection) to collecting experiences. The experiences can be anything from glamorous trips to a night-out dining at a new restaurant. The spending dedicated to experiences worldwide has witnessed a jump of 70% in the past 30 years, according to estimates. Reports also suggest that around 80% of the millennials spend money on gaining memorable experiences that would last a lifetime, and eating is uppermost in their minds. Full credit to the F&B companies for reinventing themselves to the fast changing world.
Ghost restaurants, also known as delivery-only restaurants, are a characteristic feature of our times. These establishments do not have storefronts and deliver food directly to the customers who place orders online. Consumer demand exerts a major influence on ghost restaurants. These businesses are looking at automation and robots for catering to the burgeoning demand. Robots that flip burgers and manage the grill to AI programs that determine the meal cooking process are on the anvil.
Smart ovens are multi-tasking and displacing multiple appliances in the kitchen. There are ovens that combine a dehydrator, slow cooker, broiler and toaster in one machine, and pre-programmed ovens that allow meal selection. Smart ovens will soon read recipes and create dishes by using Augmented Reality applications to recognize individual ingredients.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) has a tremendous impact on the F&B sector. AI is helping farmers to grow better food by managing variables such as UV light, salinity and heat. It is also aiding in the detection of plant diseases and pests, and improvement in soil health. The grocery industry is exploiting the power of AI to manage inventory and reduce waste. Food-focused platforms are using AI to provide personalized recommendations and suggest nutrition plans tailor-made to individual requirements.
Businesses, ranging from big chain restaurants to independently owned cafes, are collecting Point-of-Sale (POS) data in droves. The F&B companies are harnessing AI to mine data for food trends and consumer habits, and using the acquired information to develop new products. POS systems are streamlining the functioning of hotels and Bar POS systems are doing the same for bars, thereby elevating the customer experience by many notches.
3D Food Printing
3-D printing technology offers immense possibilities in the food sector. It will galvanize customized food designs and digitalized nutrition. It will also lead to customization of flavors that match health needs and turn food into a work of art.
Unknown to us, the vegetables on our kitchen table can be a beehive of dangerous bacteria and unscrupulous fungi. Modern-day agriculture is heavily dependent on chemical insecticides and pesticides, and this also augurs ill for the environment. Agriculture scientists are thus shunning potentially harmful chemicals and adopting biocontrols, i.e. organisms to fight pests and disease. Biocontrols not only fight the pathogens, but also render the food long lasting and fresh.
We all want our fruit to be perfectly ripe and this might actually be possible. Fruit ripening is caused by ethylene, a natural gas generated by the fruits themselves. Food technologists in Canada have created an ethylene powder that can ripen the fruits both in the kitchen and on a large-scale basis. This powder dramatically enhances the safety and efficiency of food ripening.
The busy lifestyles of today leave little time for preparing and eating three square meals a day. The consumers are demanding F&B solutions for such situations and food providers are approaching consumer needs in innovative ways by offering home-delivered meal kits to time-poor consumers and virtual retail portals for ordering groceries on the go.
The ‘Eat Local’ mantra is alive and thriving in the F&B space. The farmer markets in the US rose by 100% in the last decade alone due to the demand for authentic local produce. Community pride and eco-preservation are driving the urge for healthy food and sustainable consumption.
Nutrition Science is taking us closer to understanding and responding to individual dietary needs. A large amount of research is being devoted to studying the microbes in the gut, and their impact on digestion and intestinal health. Attempts are also being made to unlock the mysteries of taste perception, food choices, consumption habits and general health. The more F&B companies know about human genetics and microbiology, the better will they be positioned to offer customized service offerings.
The Future of Innovation
Consumers are becoming increasingly conscious about personal and environmental health, and connecting to brands that possess social and environmental value. Governments and businesses are pushing for a new and optimal way of utilizing the available resources. The future of innovation in the F&B industry depends on innovation itself; on creating a conducive eco-system for innovation to flourish and bloom.