Any company that survives for more than a couple of decades has almost certainly survived numerous drastic changes to their industry. Technology is a driving force of innovation today, challenging even the most established companies to modernize and reimagine how they stay relevant.
Taxi companies have been dealt a blow by companies like Uber and Lyft that utilize simple mobile applications, Airbnb has shaken up the hospitality industry, and young startups like Lesara are disrupting the retail industry. These industries are saturated with well-resourced corporate giants who did not anticipate small startups ever challenging their survival. They are all now scrambling to catch up.
No industry is impervious to the revolutions caused by technological advances. But some industries are slower than others to feel the influence of such revolutions. The food industry is one that is lagging behind others, plagued by archaic practices and an increasingly angry consumer base.
But technology and innovative ideas are finally catching up with consumer outrage. I spoke with Rich Naha, CEO of Froozer, about some of these small disruptions. Froozer is an example of a food company using technology to shake up the food industry. They've built technology that allows them to flash freeze fruits and vegetables, blend them together, and package them in their pure form - whole fruits and vegetables harvested at the peak of their nutritional value.
Here are the trends Rich Naha sees shaping the food industry in 2016:
In the past, brands could get away with misleading customers with erroneous labels and clever copywriting, but in today's connected world, that is becoming harder and harder for companies to do. Social media and smartphones have connected consumers to information about the harmful effects of certain ingredients, the source of products, and how things are made. This interconnectedness is demanding accountability from the food giants like they have never seen before.
Naha explained, "Campbell's Soup recently made headlines when they removed 13 ingredients from their traditional soup recipe. This was a decision made because of outcry from consumers, outcry that was becoming louder and damaging their brand." As this trend continues, brands will have no choice but to listen to the demands of their customers or they risk losing their standing in the market.
Research Is Changing The Conversation
Technology is enabling researchers to make new discoveries that are changing our understanding of nutrition. Big data in particular is revealing the consequences of certain foods that scientists did not previously understand. The FDA in recent years has been forced to issue updates on what we think is actually healthy. One of the biggest changes that Naha sees is the escalating war on sugar. "We are just now beginning to understand how horrible sugar is for our bodies. As we begin to understand these effects and the public starts paying attention, consumers will increasingly look for products that don't contain sugar."
According to reports, Americans throw away over 40% of the food they purchase. As awareness around these issues continue to grow, innovative entrepreneurs will identify solutions. Froozer is one company that is working to innovate food production and mitigate food waste. According to Naha, the Froozer products can be made with the fruits and vegetables that many produce companies can't use - produce rejected for cosmetic reasons or because they are too ripe. Consumers pay more for their food because companies reject huge volumes of viable produce. Froozer has created a product that utilizes food that would normally be wasted.
Informed consumers will continue to grow the market for companies like Froozer and for countless other innovations that will meet the demand for sustainable, healthy food.