FoodMinds attended the first Future of Food Summit on September 20, hosted by EatingWell magazine and the International Food and Information Council (IFIC), which covered experts and thought leaders from across the food system including farmers, industry representatives, and nutrition and health professionals.
The speaker-panel dialogue addressed key topics on food system transformation opportunities, such as the consumer experience, sustainable food production, plant and animal source proteins, and nutrition and health innovations.
Key theme* raised by the speakers and attendees included:
Consumer trends, food values and behaviors often conflict.
- Consumer demands for taste, convenience, quality, functional/health benefits and sustainability often contrast with their actual purchasing and eating behaviors. For example, college students and millennials are more concerned about environmental sustainability than any other consumer group, yet they tend to produce the most food/packaging waste due to individualized portions and snacks, pointing to a clear disconnect between food values and behaviors.
Productivity and profit must be part of sustainable farming.
- Farmer and food producers must see a positive impact in agricultural production while maintaining profits to incentivize sustainable farming practices that economically sustain and support communities. This key message is often lost in discussions about sustainable agriculture, particularly when farmers are not part of the conversation.
Sustainable production improvements and innovations are driven by private sector and consumer demand, not policy.
- Despite the frequent focus on legislation and farm policies in the food systems and sustainability dialogue, most speakers noted the importance of market demand and private sector investment in shaping sustainable agricultural production and food manufacturing.
Plant-forward recommendations and demands are soaring, moving quickly ahead of the science.
- Substantial growth and interest in plant-forward eating is rapid innovation, along with efforts to define healthy, sustainable eating patterns. There is also growing push back against plant-based foods that are considered “ultra-processed” which may impact future development and positioning.
Personalized Wellness is much broader than genetics.
- Taking a personalized and tailored approach to health and nutrition communications with simple, practical advice that is guided by data and technology may be a key to behavior change and presents opportunities for consumer engagement.
Nutrition guidance must be evidence-based and focus on behavioral change.
- The trends that generate the most buzz among consumers and marketers are often met by disapproval from registered dietitians, but speakers warned against discouraging consumers from these trends and potentially alienating patients from professional advice. Panelists stressed focusing on overall lifestyle behaviors versus diet only, and personalizing guidance by tailoring to “where consumers are”.
Labeling has its limits.
- Front-of-pack labeling and nutrition/menu labeling cannot convey a full story in a meaningful way; however, labels can provide objective measures of health and food values and play a strong role in consumer choice, according to IFIC consumer studies. The panelists called for improved accuracy in nutrition analysis and labeling and noted that labeling questions from consumers often as a starting point for nutrition guidance and conversations.
* Please note: the key themes and takeaways noted were focus points of discussion and presentations; they do not necessarily reflect FoodMinds’ point of view.
Allison Mikita, MS, is a vice president and director, Global ExpertBench™ at FoodMinds, based in our New York office.
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