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The Great Expectations for the Food and Beverage Industry

December 13, 2021
By Melissa Beaty and Hailey McKee

Consumer expectations are on the rise – and it’s critical that companies keep up. In fact, 95% of industries studied are falling short of expectations when it comes to giving better value, according to the FleishmanHillard Authenticity Gap Report by TRUE Global Intelligence. To keep in lockstep with consumers, food and beverage leaders should understand these three great expectations that are driving the industry forward.

Perceptions of the role food and beverage plays are shifting consumers are increasingly viewing food less as an agent of consumption and more as a catalyst for well-being.

As the world navigates the lingering effects of COVID-19, our Gen Food and the Rise of the New Foodie Report by TRUE Global Intelligence found that 64% of those studied remain mindful about their food choices. This refocus on preventative health is leading consumers to prioritize the functional benefits of food and beverages, from immunity and antioxidants to anti-stress and sleep aid. To embrace this macrotrend head-on, brands should be prepared to consider how their products can or could contribute to wellness – creating fresh opportunities for portfolio development and storytelling. 

Next, the great expectations driving the current food and beverage landscape provide fertile ground for innovation – something that was once deprioritized as consumers clung to staple products or restructured their spending during the height of the pandemic.

The fluctuating trends in consumer dining and shopping habits reveal that consumers are experimenting with new innovations that offer “greater convenience, flavor and function” (IRI). Increasingly, brands are integrating unique, strong flavors, variety packs and global perspectives into their offerings that can resonate with new audiences and fuel their sense of adventure. Simply put, food and beverage manufacturers must find innovative ways to show up in new places to bring consumers the experiences and flavors they love.

These expectations encompass more than just products themselves. Consumers are also looking to food and beverage players to demonstrate how they are contributing to a more sustainable world.

According to our Authenticity Gap research, 79% of consumers say that brands should focus on developing working practices that protect the environment as they prepare for the future. While most consumer companies say they are working on various sustainability initiatives, research from IBM says that only 10% of brands have defined unique metrics to measure their sustainability progress, which poses challenges for linking efforts to business results and sharing compelling narratives with customers. At a time when consumer expectations have never been higher, food and beverage companies need to demonstrate and measure how they are consistently evolving to meet those demands.

So, what’s next?

In light of high inflation costs, stretched supply chains and sustained demand, food and beverage leaders must be ready to raise the bar to meet the evolving consumer’s great expectations. Looking forward, organizations should consider how they can best plan for evolving operations and take authentic action.