The Future of US Food: Trends and Challenges to be aware of - The Sterling Choice
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The Future of US Food: Trends and Challenges to be aware of

Food is an essential part of our daily lives, providing sustenance, pleasure, and culture. The food industry is one of the largest and most diverse in the world, encompassing everything from agriculture and food production to marketing and sales. However, the industry also faces numerous challenges and opportunities driven by changing consumer preferences, technological advancements, and new regulations. For job seekers in the food industry, staying informed about these trends and challenges is crucial for success.   

The industry has found the past few years particularly tough. The combination of having to cope with increased demand, paired with restrictions due to COVID-19 on manufacturing and regulation processes has made life very difficult for everybody in the supply chain. The various challenges have brought on various new technologies and trends as the industry constantly evolves to cope – driven by changes in consumer preferences, technological advances, and new regulations.  

 

Some of the most exciting and transformational trends include: 

 

  • Plant-Based Foods 

The demand for plant-based foods doesn’t seem to be slowing down, as consumers become more health-conscious and environmentally aware. According to a report by Meticulous Research, the global plant-based food market is expected to reach $95.52 billion by 2029, growing at a CAGR of 11.9% from 2020 to 2027. This trend is creating new opportunities for job seekers in the industry, particularly in areas such as product development and marketing. 

Not bad for a fringe movement that many of us eyed with suspicion not so long ago.

 

  • Clean Labels and Transparency 

Consumers are increasingly concerned about the quality and safety of the food they eat and are demanding greater transparency from food companies. This has led to a trend towards “clean label” foods, which are free from artificial additives and preservatives. Job seekers in the industry will need to be familiar with these trends and be able to develop and market products that meet these demands. Could label transparency see a greater shift in buying behaviour in consumers? 

 

  • Sustainability 

Sustainability is becoming an increasingly important issue in the food industry, as consumers become more aware of the environmental impact of food production. As a result, the food industry is moving towards more sustainable and more importantly ethical, practices, such as reducing food waste, using eco-friendly packaging, and sourcing ingredients from local and organic farms.  

The environment-friendly and sustainable food market is expected to gain market growth in the forecast period of 2021 to 2028.  Research from Data Bridge Market predicts that the sustainable food market is set to reach an estimated value of USD 170.5 billion by 2028 and grow at a CAGR of 6.6% for the forecast period of 2021-2028. 

The increasing concern about the environment amongst the population and surging climate changes caused by carbon emissions, global warming, plastic and food waste are the major factors fostering the growth of the environment-friendly and sustainable food market. 

We also see that rising investments and research activities along with the focus of ethical food companies on sustainable or green packaging are estimated to generate various lucrative opportunities for the market. The rise of the focus on sustainability leads to challenges such as the need for increased labor, ethical or sustainable certification, meaning that candidates in the market need to stay up to date with the latest requirements.   

This generation of job seekers want to feel a sense of purpose. Those job seekers who are interested in sustainability should look for positions in companies that prioritise sustainable practices, such as food manufacturers that use renewable energy sources or restaurants that source ingredients from local farms to stay up to date with the latest trends and regulations. 

 

  • Technology and Innovation 

Advances in technology are changing the way food is produced, distributed, and consumed. From 3D-printed foods to drones for food delivery, there are numerous opportunities for innovation in the food industry.  

Automation: Automation is increasingly being used in food production and processing, allowing for faster and more efficient food manufacturing. For example, robots can be used to perform repetitive tasks, such as sorting and packaging food products, reducing the need for human labor. 

3D printing: 3D printing technology is being used in the food industry to create unique and customized shapes, textures, and flavors of food. It allows for the creation of complex structures and designs that would be difficult to achieve by traditional methods.  

Internet of Things (IoT): The IoT is a network of physical devices that are connected to the internet and can communicate with each other. In the food industry, IoT sensors can be used to monitor food safety and quality, track inventory, and optimize food processing and storage.  

Artificial intelligence (AI): AI is being used in the food industry to develop new products, optimize production processes, and personalize customer experiences.  

Blockchain: Blockchain technology is being used in the food industry to increase transparency and traceability in the supply chain. By using blockchain, food companies can track the origin of ingredients, verify food safety, and ensure ethical and sustainable sourcing practices. 

As technology continues to advance, job seekers who have skills in data analysis, programming, and automation will be in high demand. 

 

 

 

 

But of course, there will always be challenges…here is what the US food industry is facing:

 

The year 2023 brings forth emerging trends and challenges in food industry regulation, and one of great significance is the increased focus on sustainability and environmental concerns.

Reducing food waste and minimizing the carbon footprint are key priorities. However, as mentioned there is also a growing consumer demand for transparency and clean-label products, leading to stricter regulations on food additives and labeling requirements. The rise of alternative proteins, such as plant-based and cell-cultured meats, poses regulatory implications regarding their production and marketing. Technology also plays a role, with the use of blockchain for traceability gaining prominence.

However, regulating innovative food technologies presents its own challenges. The evolving landscape of food industry regulation demands adaptation to changing consumer demands and emerging technologies for businesses to thrive.  

While the food industry presents many opportunities for job seekers, there are also several challenges that they will need to navigate when considering their next career opportunity: 

 

Ever-changing regulations must be navigated.

The food industry is heavily regulated, and regulations are constantly changing. It is important to stay up-to-date with these regulations and ensure that their companies are in compliance. 

Most important regulations affecting the food industry: 

 

  • Food safety regulations: Food safety is a top priority for consumers, and food companies must comply with regulations designed to ensure that food is safe to eat. Changes in food safety regulations can be costly for food companies, as they may need to invest in new equipment and processes to comply with the new regulations. Failure to comply with food safety regulations can also result in fines and legal action, which can damage a company’s reputation and bottom line. 

With the US population of  48 million people 1 in 6 get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die each year from foodborne disease. This public health concern has given rise to the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) which is transforming the nation’s food safety system by shifting the focus from responding to foodborne illness to preventing it. 

The (FSMA) is a comprehensive set of regulations aimed at ensuring food safety and preventing foodborne illnesses throughout the food supply chain. In 2023, the FSMA brings about significant changes and challenges for the food industry. The act emphasizes the implementation of preventive controls, such as hazard analysis and risk-based preventive controls, to identify and mitigate potential risks in food production. Compliance with FSMA regulations is crucial, as the FDA increases its focus on inspections and enforcement activities to ensure industry adherence.  

 

  • Labeling regulations: Consumers are increasingly interested in knowing more about the ingredients in their food and how it is produced. Changes in labeling regulations can affect how food companies market and sell their products.  An example of this is the FTC and FDA Revisiting Guidelines for “Healthy” and “Green” Claims on food products. The FDA has issued proposed revisions to the definition of “healthy” in 2022, focusing on added sugars, sodium, and saturated fat. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced in late December 2022 that it will be revisiting the “Green Guides,” which are designed to help marketers avoid making environmental claims that could mislead consumers. 

 

  • Trade regulations: The food industry is global, with many food products being imported and exported between countries. Changes in trade regulations can affect the flow of food products between countries, which can affect the availability and price of certain foods.  

 

 

The age-old issue of supply chain disruptions 

How do you solve an issue of huge country vs distribution demand? Maybe the key lies in the next generation of job seekers?

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the vulnerability of global food supply chains. Candidates in the industry will need to be able to develop and implement strategies to mitigate the impact of supply chain disruptions and ensure that food is available to consumers. 

 

Ways that COVID-19 has disrupted food supply chains: 

 

  • Production and processing disruptions: COVID-19 has caused disruptions in food production and processing facilities, as workers have become ill or have had to quarantine. This has led to labor shortages, reduced production capacity, and increased costs for food companies. 

  • Transportation disruptions: COVID-19 has also disrupted transportation networks, making it more difficult to move food products from farms and processing facilities to retail outlets and consumers. This has led to supply chain bottlenecks, increased transportation costs, and reduced availability of certain food products. 

  • Supply chain transparency: COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of supply chain transparency, as consumers have become more interested in knowing where their food comes from and how it is produced. This has led to increased demand for supply chain transparency and traceability, which can help to reduce the risk of supply chain disruptions and ensure food safety. 

 

 

Labour Shortages 

Labour shortages are a major challenge facing the food industry, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Labour shortages can be caused by a variety of factors, including changes in immigration policy, demographic shifts, and changes in consumer behavior. Here are some of the ways that labour shortages are affecting the food industry: 

Difficulty in hiring and retaining employees: Labor shortages can make it difficult for food companies to find and retain skilled workers, which can result in reduced productivity, lower quality products, and increased labour costs. Food companies may need to increase wages or offer additional benefits to attract and retain employees. 

  • Reduced production capacity: Labor shortages can reduce the production capacity of food companies, which can result in supply chain disruptions and reduced availability of certain products. This can lead to increased prices and reduced profitability for food companies. 

 

  • Safety concerns: Shortages can also affect the safety of food workers, as companies may need to rely on inexperienced or untrained workers to fill open positions. This can increase the risk of workplace accidents and injuries. 

 

  • Increased automation: To mitigate the effects of labour shortages, food companies may invest in automation technology, such as robots or artificial intelligence which can increase efficiency and reduce labour costs 

 

 

Some common jobs in the food industry: 

 

The food industry is diverse, with many job opportunities available. Some of the most common types of jobs in the industry include: 

 

Food Scientist/Technologist 

Food scientists and technologists are responsible for developing new food products and improving existing ones. They may work in food manufacturing, research and development, or quality assurance. A bachelor’s degree in food science, chemistry, or a related field is typically required for this position. 

 

Food Production Worker 

Food production workers are responsible for operating machinery and equipment to produce food products. They may work in food processing plants, bakeries, or other food production facilities. Generally, a high school diploma or equivalent is usually required for this position. 

 

Food Service Manager 

Food service managers oversee the operations of restaurants, cafeterias, and other food service establishments. They are responsible for managing staff, ensuring customer satisfaction, and maintaining profitability for their organisations. A bachelor’s degree in hospitality management or a related field is usually required for this position. 

 

Agricultural Engineer 

Agricultural engineers design and develop equipment and systems for agricultural production. They may work on projects related to crop production, livestock management, or food processing. A bachelor’s degree in agricultural engineering or a related field is typically required for this position. 

 

Food Marketing and Sales 

Food marketing and sales professionals are responsible for promoting and selling food products to consumers. They may work in advertising, public relations, or sales. A bachelor’s degree in marketing, business, or a related field is typically required for this position. 

 

Food Safety and Quality Assurance 

Food safety and quality assurance professionals are responsible for ensuring that food products are safe and of high quality. They may work in food manufacturing, processing, or retail. A bachelor’s degree in food science, microbiology, or a related field is typically required for this position. 

 

 

The food industry is facing many challenges and opportunities driven by changing consumer preferences, advances in technology, and new regulations. As a job seeker, you should stay informed and be familiar with these trends and challenges to ensure that you succeed in this exciting and dynamic industry. Get in touch with us at The Sterling Choice, to chat about your next opportunity in the food industry. 

 

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