The food and beverage industry sees a significant changeon a constant basis. With innovation, new technology being introduced at every step of the service delivery process, changing habits, trends, new research that affects preferences and patterns, evolution is unavoidable.
With how central a role food plays in our lives, not just in terms of sustenance, but also how food is linked to the prevention of diseases—both, chronic and acute—and conditions like obesity and malnutrition, it’s unsurprising that all changes in trends affect stakeholders across the board.
Food wholesalers are no exception to these changes and variations that occur in the world of food behaviours and trends. Policies, changing needs and demands may trickle from governments, consumers and other third-parties, but the effects trickle down from there to retailers and ultimately to wholesalers and manufacturers as well.
The Shift to ‘Better Eating’—Why and How It Happened
According to researchers, the 1970s saw a global increase in consumption of processed foods, sugary snacks and beverages and unhealthy food choices, with an inability to predict the issue of obesity and other health problems including diabetes.
The pandemic, as they term it, affected populations across the world, whether it was developing South Asian and Sub-Saharan countries or those in the developed world, such as the U.S.A., the U.K. and Australia.
The urgency to do better became more and more apparent with every report, every statistic issued on national and global levels. The WHO estimates around 3.9 million deaths as a result of inadequate fruit and vegetable consumption as recent as 2017,with obesity being the third largest global social epidemic.
The number one preventable disease risk factor in Australia and all over the world is a poor diet. However, Australia is among those countries that saw immense change and growth in the national dietary habits and trends across several years.
The nutritional surveys indicated a major shift between 1995 and 2011, revealing a move towards more conscientious eating and a preference for more organic, healthier foods.
For instance, there was a notable decline in the purchase of fruit juices and sugary drinks, and an increase in the consumption of nuts by Australian adults.
Generally, Australians are eating better, even if they’re not eating according to the national dietary guidelines. There are other trends from across the globe that also impact the way food and beverage consumption takes place.
The government and other bodies have developed measures and protocols to evaluate the shift in dietary habits as well, monitoring and evaluating on the basis of multiple factors including pricing.
This research is meant to serve various purposes, including understanding price points and pricing strategies for foods—especially healthy and recommended foods, average income and how retailers and wholesalers can offer products that reflect on the findings. This comes with the understanding that healthy food habits cannot be built without better eating and food environments.
In fact, in many places, the effects and role of government policies and decisions as a barrier to healthy eating and balanced lifestyles is also being evaluated.
Beyond just policy and governmental levels, the desire to lead a healthier life and consume a more well-balanced diet is pervasive among individual consumers as well. With the fitness industry’s growth, accessibility and ease of information, people are actively choosing to eat healthier foods, investing in fair-trade and free-range as well as organic foods.
Veganism and vegetarian lifestyles are extending beyond just being fads; they’re major changes people are sustaining and sticking to. Of course, needs change with age, but the food cycle’s basic building blocks are quite solid.
The Changes in Food and Beverage and Possible Effects for Wholesalers
If the focus is on specific trends that have emerged in the past few years, or gained more traction and popularity, there are some clear winners.
1) Sustainable eating—healthy and otherwise
With the kind of changes and detriment to the environment that the world is beginning to experience, the onslaught of climate change, pollution and waste, consumers are demanding a more sustainable model for service delivery.
2) Transparency about sourcing and delivery
When consumers want to know where their food comes from, there’s not a lot that restaurants can do except make their process more transparent.
For suppliers and wholesalers, this means they have the opportunity to make their sourcing more transparent and cater to a niche. It isn’t a matter of publicity or greater market share alone; the transparency is an indicator of ethical consumerism and trade.
Creating a brand identity as a wholesaler committed to ethically sourced produce, fair wages and trade with their producers, free-range sourced eggs, milk and other animal products, cruelty-free environments and techniques can be advantageous to sellers.
Some brands and projects that are working on food transparency across Australia are listed here and explores more trends expected to emerge in the coming year.
3) Search for alternate protein and other nutrients
Of course, when it comes to discussing alternatives, cruelty-free approaches, meat is very much at the forefront of this conversation.
Given that for so long it has been considered an important source of protein and other nutrients, alongside other foods that were considered essential parts of a healthy diet, it’s difficult to imagine a world without it.
However, research around the idea of alternative protein, calcium and vitamin sources bring forward vegetables, fruit, supplements and much more. For wholesalers, there’s a danger for the demand of meat and dairy products, however, there’s a definite market for plant-based products.
Sourcing and putting out plant based sources of protein and other nutrients is one of the smartest business decisions that wholesalers can make, working with producers and retailers to deliver them.
4) Minimally processed foods are more desirable
People want food that’s more ‘natural,’ ‘organic,’ and less processed and artificially produced. These foods are meant to be a step toward a healthier tomorrow, offering greater nutritional value and fewer additives and artificial flavourings, etc.
It’s also part of a larger movement away from added sugars—and sugary foods in general—as well as carbs. The health risks associated with refined carbs and sugars have driven consumers away from foods containing these. For suppliers, this holds a lot of potential as territory worth venturing into.
Foods that are ‘better for you’, as one article termed it, are what have become a popular, more desirable alternative to comfort foods and conventional food items that people consume. This is done by taking traditionally ‘unhealthy’ snacks and junk food that’s not preferred or recommended as part of a balanced diet, and creating a version that is ‘better for you.’
The introduction of protein desserts, natural sweeteners and ingredients that are considered better for one’s health has led to a replacement of the mainstream versions rapidly.
Australian consumers are very well on board with this trend and wholesalers have the room to make use of innovative techniques, ingredients and marketing strategies to provide foods that meet these criteria.
5) Need for treats and snacking
Of course, however, there’s no removal of snacking as a habit and need. People still need to indulge and with the overall adoption of a healthier lifestyle, the idea of treating yourself has intensified.
If you eat clean six days a week, you’re more than entitled to a treat—which means that the market for ‘not-so-healthy’ food is still very much there.
However, rephrasing and changing the narrative around this is what will propel sales. Wholesalers can market their products in whichever way they choose and retail clients such as restaurants and supermarkets can get them out to the market.
Seeing as how it’s difficult to obtain healthy, sustainable food alternatives and participate in practices that align with changing social and individual values, business at every stage of the supply chain have exciting opportunities headed their way.
A sense of social responsibility and the desire to combat the increasing food insecurity in Australia will help bridge the gap between wanting to eat healthier and not having access to it.
The needs of consumers have changed drastically and with the help of better organising, a thorough understanding of demands and working closely with retail customers, wholesalers can rise up to the challenge ahead of them.