The buzzword these days is disruption. What was initially used as a term to define “technologically straightforward” services and products that target the bottom end of an established market and then move their way up to overtake the market leaders — think Uber — is now a catchall to describe any change or innovation. A disruption is a disturbance or problem that interrupts an event – not always a good thing. Change, innovation, and progress — although unsettling at first — are often good things.
Change, enabled by technology, is occurring at lightning speed all around us. It’s a reality we need to manage. What hasn’t changed is the fact that we all need to eat. Our motivations behind what we eat, who prepares it, where we eat it, and how and when we eat are generally the same. We’re hungry, we’re in a hurry, we have a craving, and on and on. And while the overall food and foodservice industries appear to be trapped in the doldrums, there are many examples of food companies and foodservice operators that have reinvented or innovated in order to make certain they deliver on what today’s consumers want; as a result, they’re growing.
Others have reframed their mindset, thinking of themselves as solutions providers. For example, we know 80 percent of meals are now consumed in home, and although some of the items in these meals are prepared in-home, consumers are also turning to foodservice for shortcuts and blend these items with foods they prepared. We forecast this behavior will grow over next five years.
Recently a major restaurant chain announced it would offer meal kits in some of its stores. The chain found a way to be a solutions provider for the in-home meal. My guess is that there will be customers who go in for a meal kit but may come out with prepared, ready-to-eat items, too. Having a “meal solutions approach” lets food companies and foodservice operators solve problems for the consumer. The solution may include providing the entire meal or supplying a component of a blended meal alongside items prepared or assembled at home.
My thinking is that the food and foodservice industries aren’t being disrupted, they’re changing and will innovate and ultimately progress. As long as food manufacturers, foodservice manufacturers, and grocery retailers keep their focus on consumers, understand their needs and wants, and provide solutions to meet those needs, the food and foodservice industries will grow.