reThink Food was not just the name of a conference held last week at the Culinary Institute of America, it was also the challenge I and the other 200 attendees accepted. Thought leaders in food, technology, design and behavior explored how big data, robotics, agriculture and culinary strategy are radically changing food markets, systems and our understanding of consumer choices.
Three key themes emerged from the two-day session:
Technology is reshaping the food system: From data-driven ideation shortening product development cycles and lowering costs, to augmented reality (AR) enabling you to see the menu item you think you like on your plate in your kitchen before hitting “ORDER”, to wearables tracking your biorhythms and then suggesting appropriate food recommendations, technology is changing how we engage with food and make informed choices.
The “Egosystem of Many” has become the “Ecosystem of One”: Mass segmentation of food, driven by a large-scale supply chain is giving way to personalized choices supported by direct-to-me delivery. The consumer is now able to get more of their wants and needs met – time, portion, flavor, nutrition, sourcing and social responsibility.
Communication is changing as rapidly as the food marketplace: A product launched supported by a virtual reality (VR)/in-real life (IRL) tasting experience. A documentary screened in mainstream theaters to showcase the need for labor policy reform in the produce market. New challenges are requiring a reset on how we communicate with consumers.
FleishmanHillard also debuted our new GenFood research as part of a foodservice panel. Insights on how Gen Z and Millennials are rethinking food led to a fascinating discussion about the roles food halls and start-ups can play to meet their needs.
My personal takeaway: reThink Food isn’t an event, process or destination. It’s a new framework all of us in the food and agriculture industries must adapt to grow in a rapidly changing and increasingly diverse marketplace.