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Food 4 Future – Expo Foodtech presents the 7 trends that will define the future of the food industry

The food industry met last April at Food 4 Future – Expo Foodtech and Pick&Pack for Food Industry, which were held simultaneously in Bilbao, Spain, from 16 to 18 April to discover and analyse the challenges facing the food and beverage sector, marked by an inflationary economic context, new consumer habits that lead to new consumer demands, and increasingly demanding regulations regarding sustainability. With the help of 482 experts from the food industry worldwide, Food 4 Future and Pick&Pack, together with AZTI’s technological innovation team, have identified the 7 trends that will mark the future of the food industry in the coming years:

1. Geostrategy and inflationary environment

Europe has traditionally had a history of low agri-food inflation, something that has changed in recent years with a double-digit annual increase in food and non-alcoholic beverage inflation. This problem, coupled with the fact that many regions specialise in a single product, creates a risk of market fluctuations. To face these challenges, Food 4 Future has highlighted the importance of moving towards the European model of more efficient and productive farms, with greater collaboration from the private sector, something that will strengthen the competitiveness of these companies. Alliances between manufacturers and fostering resilience, innovation and collaboration are key to ensuring success in a constantly evolving sector.

2. New consumer habits

Consumer demands and habits have changed and now demand personalised experiences. Many companies are already using data and the latest technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence, to adapt products and services to these new individual preferences and the trend is expected to continue in the future. In addition, society has shifted and now consumers value health, taste, convenience and sustainability as key drivers and where direct sales have increased significantly. In this way, food and beverage firms are gaining market share, winning over the shopper in the current context of price adjustment, and forging robust competition for the rest of the players. New habits also include the demand for healthier and more sustainable foods, which has led to innovation in alternative foods, such as those based on vegetable proteins, mushrooms, algae, and meat substitutes.

3. 360° Sustainability

The food industry faces multiple challenges in terms of sustainability, driven by climate change, the efficient management of resources such as water and energy, and the need for decarbonisation to achieve zero net emissions. It is also focusing its efforts on the importance of minimising greenhouse gas emissions, optimizing packaging materials, improving eco-efficiency in production processes and encouraging recycling throughout the product life cycle. Suppliers are key in this respect, as are sustainable agricultural and livestock practices, together with more efficient food processing chains and minimising food waste.

4. New technologies

The digital transformation that the food sector is undergoing has brought with it robotisation and automation in production plants, but it is also being extended to other practices such as harvesting, spraying and pruning in agriculture. Other trends that will mark the future in the field of agri-food tech are precision fermentation, efficiency technologies, operational excellence, or industrial machine vision to detect quality defects, among others. The application of technologies is also key to guaranteeing food quality and safety, with real-time monitoring, preventive models, traceability from farm to fork, and smart packaging and labels to ensure the quality of pre-packaged food. In addition, quantum computing is gaining a great deal of attention in the field of innovation.

5. Healthy eating

Concern for healthy eating and lifestyle is growing, which is why personalised nutrition has become increasingly important in recent years. Companies are striving for healthier products without sacrificing pleasure and taste through new techniques. The debate on ultra-processed foods and the need for legislation will also remain on the table. This is an issue where there is no consensus and where there is a high degree of ignorance among citizens about labeling systems. Transparent communication on packaging will help consumers to make informed choices.

6. New packaging regulations

Packaging is also undergoing a paradigm shift driven by several interlinked factors: the advance of decarbonisation, the application of technologies for process optimisation and the adaptation to increasingly demanding sustainability regulations. The sector is currently immersed in major challenges driven by the new regulations against food waste and packaging, which will have an impact on eco-design, the trend towards mono-material, reuse, and the increase in recycled material, among other issues.

7. More sustainable and efficient logistics

Supply chain efficiency is crucial. Technology allows for greater production and volume, greater flexibility, and more traceability, all of which have an impact on increasing business for companies in the sector. For this reason, Artificial Intelligence, robotics, automation and blockchain solutions are already being applied to improve logistics efficiency in the food value chain. The use of robots and AI makes it possible to handle a wide variety of products, and even pack boxes with products of different types and sizes using artificial vision. The result is improved efficiency, saving time and increasing sustainability while reducing costs.

Robotics, Superfood & Software Solutions are the keywords of the first Startup Village by Interpoma, which will inaugurate this year, entirely dedicated to innovative ideas to improve the various sectors of the apple industry.

The future of the planet is based on innovation and research. The biggest threats of the 21st century such as food security, climate change, scarcity of resources and the fight against waste, all have the same common denominator, agriculture. Technological innovation will guide the search for a more sustainable development in all industries. To produce more in quantity and quality, but with less resources (land, water, fuel) wasted, will be on of the biggest challenge and the boom of startups in the last years in various sectors of the agribusiness, will be one of the driving forces behind the development of technological innovations to tackle those.

After two successful editions of the “Interpoma Innovation Camp”, Interpoma – international fair of the apple industry at Fiera Bolzano from 15 to 17 November – will introduce their first “Startup Village”, a platform for the exchange of new ideas and innovative themes in the agriculture-apple industry between consolidated companies and startups with young talents and experts in the field.

The startups interested in participating can fill in the participation form on: www.fierabolzano.it/interpoma/en/startupvillage.html. Selected startups will get a free desk at the Interpoma 2018 Startup Village from 15 to 17 November and they have the chance to present their innovation to the international and national trade press. The package also includes a matchmaking with the 400 exhibitors and visibility on all Interpoma channels (Trade Press & Press + Web). The cost for the startup amounts to only € 290,00.