There are some huge trends emerging in 2019. And I’m not talking about CBD, plant protein or mushrooms, as that would be a ‘year in review’.
There are trends that are coming hard and fast at the food industry that few are discussing and that need to be addressed, so we are going to lay out all eight of them here:
- Racial Advertising: Our food system is not only loaded with artificial ingredients, but also systemic racism. In no way is that more obvious than in the excessive advertising that targets people of color. In 2017, black teens saw more than twice as many ads for unhealthy food products as white teens, researchers found. Statistics show that growth in consumption of organic food by communities of color is outpacing that of the total population, so someone tell the ad agencies and marketing directors: targeting black teens with junk food has to stop.
- Whitewashed Venture Capital: Less than 1% of American venture capital-backed founders are black. Less than 1%. So venture capital is failing to invest in diversity of innovation, and it’s costing us: in 2016, the Center for Global Policy Solutions reported that due to discriminatory financing practices and a bias towards companies primarily operated by white males, America is losing out on over 1.1 million minority-owned businesses, and as a result, foregoing over 9 million potential jobs and $300 billion in collective national income, according to Forbes.
- B Corp: This certification is exploding. Danone officially became the world’s largest B corp in 2018, defying any and all excuses. A challenge within the certification itself is that due to its costs, it inadvertently burdens minority groups who do not have the same access to capital, as discussed above. There has always been some backlash against the certification and the suggestion that it is yet another “Winner Take All” strategy. However, that can be addressed, and given the intent of the board of B Lab, I am certain that with increased noise and pressure, it will be.
- The Bullshit Factor: Consumers are calling out companies that fake authenticity. RXBar is the poster child for this one. For almost 18 months, consumers complained about reactions they were having to these products: from life-threatening allergic reactions, to GI upset, to vomiting to skin rashes. It took 18 months before a recall was issued. So if a company promises “No B.S.” in their products, chances are you want to take another look.
- Food Waste: It’s seismic in our food system, from soil to shelf. Imperfect produce is not accepted at the grocery store and antiquated “sell by” dates fill dumpsters with products fit for a kitchen. Almost 40% of the food that we produce is wasted. The bottom line is that we need it to feed the world. Around the country and world, we are now seeing everything from food recovery programs to zero food waste bloggers to ambitious European Union (EU) food waste reduction targets. Food policy in the U.S. needs to get with the 21st century.
- Melatonin-infused Products: Anxiety and depression are impacting millions of Americans. Is it any wonder? The steady stream of headlines put us into fight or flight mode, and stories of “climate grief” and the growing emotional toll of climate change are mounting. Climate grief is yet another reason why sleep is elusive to millions. What helps? Melatonin. So look for melatonin-infused supplements, teas and snacks to help pillow our heads and settle our minds.
- A New Labeling Debate: With lab grown and cell-based ‘milks’ and ‘meats‘ in production, the FDA and USDA are playing a game of “Who’s on First”? Nobody is quite sure by whom or how these products are going to be regulated. There are no long term testing models. On top of that, the meat industry is suddenly getting defensive about who can label what “milk” and “meat.” Is a tofu sausage really a sausage? Stay tuned.
- Climate Calories: Two-thirds of the U.S. military installations are threatened by flooding, drought and wildfires driven by climate change, the Defense Department said in a new report required by Congress. But it’s not just impacting the Department of Defense, climate change is a national security issue, a food security issue and so much more. It’s disrupting agriculture and farming. So put it on the balance sheet, measure the risk and mitigate it. We need to think about it this way: How many climate calories does your product consume? And what plans are you putting in place to mitigate climate risk?
As BlackRock CEO, Larry Fink, wrote in his 2019 letter to CEOs:
“Unnerved by fundamental economic changes and the failure of government to provide lasting solutions, society is increasingly looking to companies, both public and private, to address pressing social and economic issues. These issues range from protecting the environment to retirement to gender and racial inequality, among others. Fueled in part by social media, public pressures on corporations build faster and reach further than ever before.”
Heading into 2019, make sure you are managing your business for purpose-driven profits that align with the values of 21st century consumers.
There is too much at stake, and the risk of obsolescence extends far beyond a company’s bottom line.