The processed-meat industry is currently experiencing a period of rapid expansion. As the Food Processing Suppliers Association (FPSA) has noted, the sector is expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 14.3 percent from 2013 to 2018, reaching $799 billion by 2018. These projections are the result of two key factors: the change in food demand and a marked improvement in the technologies involved in meat processing.

However, in order to keep pace with this growth and meet changing consumer needs and expectations — while also maximizing revenue and profits — organizations have realized they need to make investment in their research and development (R&D) activities a priority. It is necessary for meat processors to look for innovative solutions across all regions and develop cheaper production techniques, which will further drive down the price of the final product. Successful companies will find and source ingredients that are not only cheap and effective, but which are also healthy.

As meat processors invest in more R&D in order to achieve these goals, they should be aware of these three driving factors that will contribute to continued development in the industry.

1. Increased demand for processed meat

Processed food has grown in popularity among consumers for a number of reasons. With packed schedules and the rise of dual-earning couples, processed food has become the most preferred and convenient type of sustenance for members of a busy household, as it minimizes the effort needed in preparing and cooking meals. This is particularly relevant in countries where meat is consumed in large quantities and processed meat plays an important role in dietary norms.

Additionally, while health-conscious consumers may have avoided processed meats in the past, the industry has made great strides in integrating healthier processes and ingredients. As a result, an increasing number of consumers are turning to processed meats as a healthy, viable and convenient meal option.

To continue this positive momentum, meat processors must invest in superior equipment that keeps the food hygienic and healthy for consumers. Recently there have been many technological advancements in such equipment, a main factor in driving the increased adoption of processed meats.

2. Government support in developing countries

The emerging markets of the Asia-Pacific region, which includes India, China, Japan, etc., are anticipated to experience rapid economic growth in the near future. With the rising income of these populations comes greater discretionary funds, leading to a higher demand for processed foods.

Governments of countries such as China, India and Brazil are introducing standards to mature the food preservation and processing infrastructure, including the prioritization of food quality and safety regulations. These governments are providing aid to the meat-processing equipment industry by extending support to many small and medium meat-processing enterprises to procure the right quality of equipment for the correct purpose.

This help will accelerate the growth of food processing in developing countries, ensuring the rising demand for process foods is met while simultaneously ensuring food safety for global consumers.

3. Demand for food safety, generating the need for sophisticated equipment

As much as consumers are well aware of the ease and convenience provided by processed meat and meat products, they are equally concerned about its quality and health benefits. As a result, many meat-processing equipment manufacturers are focused on sophisticated technologies to ensure that the issue of food safety is addressed properly. Processed-meat manufacturers are therefore investing in refined versions of processing equipment. They must remain very careful while selecting any machinery for their industrial purpose, so as not to lose potential customers based on issues around food safety.

As the market demand for processed meat continues to grow, the companies that invest in R&D will more fully understand the complex market and consumer landscape. This knowledge, coupled with an up-to-date understanding around the newest meat-processing equipment and technologies, will provide the best opportunities to capitalize on this market growth.