— OPINION —
By Paul Damaren
The food industry experienced a dramatic transformation in 2023, driven by the increased adoption of tech solutions, including AI, IoT, blockchain, and machine learning. These tech solutions will continue to revolutionize the food sector in 2024, elevating food safety, transparency, and the customer experience.
Food safety prioritized
Many food brands have wisely adopted tech solutions to improve food safety and quality – a trend that will continue in 2024. More organizations are relying on innovative tech solutions to monitor and maintain the highest food safety standards throughout the supply chain. Moving forward, tech tools will continue to play crucial roles in keeping foods – and people – safer.
Since the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was passed, more organizations are following the food safety regulations outlined in this document. In the past few years, brands have become more aware of – and compliant with – food safety protocols, working diligently to improve safety, quality, accuracy, transparency, and compliance. It’s refreshing to see the industry collaborating to prioritize food safety and ensure greater transparency and traceability for our collective food supply.
In the coming year, more food businesses will implement FSMA regulations. The increased adoption will be driven by the approaching deadline, of course, but also because of heightened consumer demand for food safety and quality, tech advancements that boost transparency and traceability, and a collective commitment to prioritize food safety. As adoption of FSMA accelerates, it will help create a safer, more secure and transparent food supply.
Evolving consumer expectations
Consumer expectations have evolved, and people want – and demand – greater transparency, more ethical sourcing, increased sustainability, and healthier food offerings. Brands are working diligently to meet these new consumer expectations, taking steps to provide comprehensive information about ingredients, as well as sourcing and sustainability practices, allowing individuals to make more informed decisions about the foods they buy and consume.
Consumer expectations are driving many of today’s industry trends, as they demand safe, nutritious foods that are sustainably and ethically grown and produced. Consumers’ increasing concern for transparency and sustainability in the food industry is due to a growing awareness of the environmental and social implications of their food choices. They want to make purchases that contribute to positive change, so they’re supporting brands whose values align with their own. Food companies must give their customers what they want, or risk being left behind in an increasingly competitive market.
Interestingly, the new FSMA regulations include rules that standardize food traceability protocols, which is perfect timing, as consumers are demanding transparency and traceability. In fact, a recent survey revealed that 72% of consumers said transparency is important in their decision about which brands to support.
Looking Ahead to 2024
Anticipate the following trends in the new year:
Competition and market saturation
The highly competitive nature of the food industry will likely lead to increased competition for customers, especially in saturated markets. Brands must, therefore, differentiate themselves through innovation, safety and quality, unique experiences, and exceptional customer service.
For instance, many consumers want more personalized recommendations about what foods to try and buy. Brands are answering this call, using tech tools to customize recommendations based on consumers’ purchase history, such as flagging plant-based options that vegan and vegetarian consumers might enjoy. Tech solutions like AI can help curate personalized experiences based on individual preferences, further strengthening customer satisfaction, loyalty, and retention. Brands that use tech solutions to customize (and enhance) the user experience will differentiate themselves from those that don’t.
Additionally, innovative technology, like artificial intelligence, will set brands apart from the pack. AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants can handle customer inquiries, respond to comments, and even make reservations. Not only does this improve response times and efficiency, but it also frees up human employees to focus on customer interaction and value-add tasks.
Managing regulatory compliance has always been a challenge for food organizations, especially since the rules are always changing. Food brands can better manage regulatory compliance – and related policies and procedures – by using tech solutions.
In the food industry, the Food Safety Modernization Act is changing the game. Per FSMA, companies must now provide full transparency of how their products are made, as well as full traceability as the products move along the supply chain. Brands (and their products) must now adhere to a variety of regulations, increase transparency in areas like labeling, demonstrate compliance, and provide consumers with the information they need to make more educated decisions about the foods they buy and the companies they support.
Food brands can (and should!) use tech tools to overcome common challenges around compliance, including food safety standards, proper labeling, supply chain transparency, as well as environmental and labor regulations. Sophisticated tech solutions allow companies to streamline operations, ensure product quality, and remain in compliance with ever-evolving regulations. Using innovative – and integrated – tech tools, brands can better manage real-time data sharing, demand forecasting, traceability, recall management, quality control, inspections and audits, environmental compliance, and more.
In 2024, we’ll see food safety regulations – and consumer expectations – continue to evolve, and brands must keep up. Food companies would be wise to stay informed about regulatory changes, use tech solutions, and implement best practices to ensure ongoing safety, quality, transparency, and compliance.
About the author: Paul Damaren is Chief Revenue Officer at RizePoint, a technology firm in the food safety, quality management, compliance, and social responsibility space.