Since the COVID-19 outbreak, circumstances surrounding the pandemic have dominated the spotlight. Masks, social distancing, working remotely, and the mantra “Stay safe and stay healthy” became household words practically overnight. At the same time, the global health crisis has compelled consumers to pursue healthier lifestyles, which includes reexamining food consumption. This shifting paradigm is largely transforming the food and beverage industry.
The pandemic has been accompanied by a growing interest in healthier and more purposeful foods. In a nutshell, consumers are looking to food as a means to improve physical and mental health, which has resulted in new dietary trends, including:
Food safety has always been an inherent concern among global populations. Historically, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been responsive in strengthening their oversight of food quality. The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) that the agency launched in 2011 is one example of its proactive approach to ensuring the safety of consumables. The FSMA shifted the FDA’s focus to be proactive about the prevention of outbreaks of foodborne illnesses.2
Consumers are also taking more initiative in ensuring the quality and safety of their food. For example, people are becoming more knowledgeable about product labels in order to make more educated purchases. The FDA commonly publishes information resources that assist consumers with reading labels, making informed food decisions, and choosing healthy diets.3
Consumers are looking for safer and higher quality products, which means they expect a high degree of transparency and want to have the food product’s history and quality story available at the touch of a button.
Using a smart phone, consumers can scan the quick response (QR) code on a product’s label and obtain in-depth information about the product, such as the brand’s sustainability record and where the food originated. “Transparency throughout the supply chain will dominate in 2021, with consumers searching for brands that can build trust, provide authentic and credible products, and create shopper confidence in the current and post-COVID climate,” explained Lu Ann Williams, director of insights and innovation at Innova Market Insights.4
Technology is also making consumers more empowered. Social media along with product and service rating apps give every customer an opportunity to share their views on the safety and quality of food products. This can have a lasting impact on a company’s brand and customer perception.
In response to consumer demands for product quality and safety, the industry is turning to technology. Digitization is the key to meeting consumer expectations while gaining significant advantages in the market.
For example, food and beverage manufacturers who don’t prioritize improving quality through digitization are at a disadvantage because quality issues are often the result of variables that occur during production. Identifying the root causes of variables is challenging. Sometimes it’s easy to overlook a deviation that’s part of a larger issue, or a new problem occurs that needs to be monitored for a while before you can identify the root cause.
Relying on testing or trial and error to determine where to make adjustments is time-consuming and can undermine your product releases and market position. With this approach, you’re unable to collect the necessary data — a valuable asset for developing quality products and staying competitive.
Digitized technology can capture all the variable historical data available, including data on suppliers and raw materials. The ability to capture all structured and unstructured data, metadata, and the data’s history in a single repository gives organizations a more in-depth view of the issues. This leads to faster decisions and resolutions. It also helps ensure that a fix in one area doesn’t create problems in other areas.
Organizations that adopt a data-driven, platform-enabled quality model will augment their capacity to yield real-time quality intelligence and predictive insights. When equipped with the ability to connect data within a common platform, every function within an organization can have an appreciable impact on product quality and timely releases.
View the industry brief “Adapting to the Next-Generation Food and Beverage Industry” to learn more about the current food and beverage trends and the technologies necessary for staying up to date.
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