Patricia Bannon, a Los Angeles-based registered dietitian specializing in nutrition and health communications, recently had an article on Fox News that outlined what she sees as food trends to watch this year. Bannon’s perspective might be slightly different from yours or mine because she lives in a highly populated part of the country where many of those consumers share her views. However, it is worth taking note of four trends that could directly impact your business in particular, and the pork industry in general.
1. Plant-based technology and diets. Bannon says plant-based diets will continue to gain traction.
“There was a 6% increase in veganism during 2017, and in an effort to encourage consumers to abandon meat-based protein sources for alternative plant-based versions, there will be more food options available than ever before,” she writes. Vegans still represent a very small segment of the population, even with a 6% increase, but this trend means animal protein producers need to think about your carbon footprint, animal care practices and other factors that the vegan community uses against you to attract new followers.
2. Minimum-waste foods. “Root-to-stem eating” and “nose-to-tail butchery” is on the rise, according to Bannon. Nearly every part of the pig is used for food, medicinal purposes or a multitude of other uses. Share this fact with people you know! Think of the number of people who are alive because of a pig’s heart valve or insulin. Your efficiency in raising pigs is also an important selling point for consumers. Pork production is part of the food waste solution.
3. Food transparency. You know transparency in how you raise pigs is a priority, and many of you are already taking action to share your stories with consumers. It’s your responsibility to explain how, what and why you do what you do. It’s more than education—it’s about connecting and building trust. If people trust you, they will believe what you tell them. We will continue to see more labels on food, many of which will be meaningless without your ability to provide context.
4. Increase in online grocery shopping. “Food e-commerce is a huge trend for 2018,” Bannon says. “Approximately 25% of U.S. adults purchase food online, and with the millennial generation, this number will only increase.” She’s right. Many young folks don’t know how to cook and don’t want to take time to learn. Mobile devices make buying food online fast and easy. Where does pork fit in this mix? Check-off funded programs must continue to build inroads to make sure pork is included as a nutritious, delicious, easy-to-prepare online option. It’s doubtful this trend will diminish in the future.
Whether you agree or disagree isn’t the issue—what’s important is that you know what people are thinking, and will take the necessary steps to prepare and adapt as necessary.