It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future, as Yogi Berra famously observed.
As 2022 wraps up, it brings us to that time when we look ahead to the New Year and what it may hold for us, both personally and professionally. Here are a few predictions to consider as we saddle up for 2023:
Some consumer insights and charcuterie industry predictions from Deanna Depke, marketing manager for St. Louis-based Volpi Foods, a fourth-generation, family-owned and operated producer of specialty cured meats:
- Consumer expectations of seamless omnichannel experiences and assortments will continue.
- Shoppers expect to find grocery-quality items at their local convenience and mass merchant stores.
- Products that serve a clear purpose or usage benefit will be most successful
- Effective cross-merchandising will be vitally important for any ingredient-based products.
- Incorporating premium items into prepared foods is another way to capture shopper dollars and position grocery stores as the value-based solution compared to traditional restaurant dining.
- Gen Z is more likely to search for recommendations on TikTok than any other medium, including asking friends or family.
- Women are more likely to search for food inspiration across the web.
McCormick For Chefs’ 23rd Edition of the Flavor Forecast — the brand’s annual report on culinary trends shaping the way millions of consumers, chefs and food professionals prepare and enjoy food — unveiled its Flavor of the Year: Vietnamese x Cajun Style Seasoning. Other predictions and trends identified in McCormick’s Flavor Forecast for 2023 include:
- Full flavored fats: Using fat to impart flavor and creaminess into everyday dishes.
- Everyday French: Grounded in the techniques and ingredients of French cooking but more approachable, using the best ingredients and culinary techniques to build a harmony of flavors.
- Beyond heat: Multi-sensorial, layered flavor that pushes beyond the singularly spicy realm where heat and ingredient pairings come together to shape how heat is perceived.
Economic pressures, convenience, technology, sustainability and health will continue to shape the meat industry, according to Midan Marketing’s 2023 Top Trends to Watch:
- At the meat case, consumers will continue to trade up, down, out and everything in between.
- Business is changing: Big players are making big moves.
- Smart marketers will re-evaluate their messaging but keep ad spend.
- High demand for high protein.
- An evolving definition of sustainability.
- Snack attacks are on the rise.
- Fast, easier and more flavorful meal solutions will rule the meat case.
- Retailers investing in technology to tackle convenience.
- Ongoing evolution of omnichannel impacting where and how consumers shop.
- TikTok as a business driver.
“Technology will remain at the forefront. The pandemic caused a shift to more digital ordering — delivery and pickup. Customers are more open to technology than ever before. They like having different ways to order. Digital is now 40% of our sales.”
—Hoyt Jones, president of Jersey Mike’s Franchise Systems Inc.
Grocery retailer The Fresh Market offers these insights for the 2023 grocery market:
- New global flavors: Food traditions from the Eastern Mediterranean and India have brought vibrant, aromatic flavors to the forefront and continue to contribute to the evolution of plant-based eating. Expect continued development in plant-based cheese, bacon and egg products.
- Natural and functional foods: As wellness remains on the forefront of the minds of many consumers, ingredients with added benefits are blooming in popularity.
- Mexican cuisine: America’s new favorite comfort food has become more accessible, with hotter sauces to flavor proteins of choice, from steak to seafood.
- Climatarian eating: The premise of this eating regimen is about eating based on environmental impact, which can include everything from eating pasture-raised, to buying more local and organic ingredients to reduce carbon emissions from transport, to eating a plant-based diet with crops that are good for soil.
Some predictions from Karim-Franck Khinouche, founder and CEO of Novolyze, which facilitates food production efficiencies by digitizing food safety and quality processes:
- Consumers will crave more traceability. Food traceability has been at the forefront for some time now, but we’ve seen it take off even more since the beginning of COVID-19, and in particular over the past year. Today, people care about their food perhaps more than ever before and want to know where it’s coming from – something the industry took for granted in the past. In the coming year, the industry can expect to see even more interest and emphasis on traceability.
- Make sustainability a priority. Sustainability is embedded within the food industry and has been for quite some time – even if it’s hardly mentioned. But in the coming year, I believe that sustainability’s real business value will come to light. Not only is it a good look in general, but it also has real value for shareholders. We’ll see a shift where the industry realizes the value in working more towards sustainable production. As the industry continues to accept sustainability targets, data will be used to measure how brands are doing when it comes to sustainability. Those who don’t put sustainability front-and-center in 2023 will be left behind.
- Be better prepared for audits. Now that there is a sense of normalcy in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic, food plant audits are increasingly taking place in-person and will continue to even more in the coming year. As a result, we can expect to see a higher number of recalls as auditors catch things that might have slipped by over the past several years of conducting audits virtually. With plants now fully functional, it’s critical to make sure everything is in order to ensure more seamless audits.
- Technology will continue to bridge the labor shortage gap. Over the past year, the labor shortage was a major story in a wide range of sectors, including food safety. The average age of today’s quality assurance manager is higher than ever. It has become difficult to find qualified people who want to work in this industry. Next year, I expect technology such as AI and machine learning to be a key factor in helping the industry make up for the labor shortage that’s currently taking place.
- Keep your crisis manager near. Social media will continue to play a big role in food-related crises. Today, the life of a food-related crisis is a roller coaster, thanks to the fast-paced and never-ending news cycle. Since there’s always another story around the corner, people often tend to move on quickly to the next story. While this is ultimately a good thing for food safety-related crises, it will be critical to have a crisis manager who knows how to handle the ins and outs of social media in the coming year.
- More digitization. As a whole, the food safety industry is taking its time to adopt AI and digitize as many different areas as possible. Today, roughly half of the food safety industry utilizes AI in some way. Many industry folks fantasize about a massive digitization product that results in a full overhaul of the industry, when in fact it’s better practice to use AI and machine learning to solve specific problems bit by bit. Food plants are becoming more and more digitally focused. And next year, I expect an even bigger digitization push in the food industry.