Emerging Issues: Identifying challenges to food retail
By Shari Steinbach, MS RDN, RDBA Contributing Editor
Food retailers understand that change and disruption are part of business. Today, however, retailers have an added challenge of dealing with disruptions that are happening at an unprecedented speed. Through the Food Marketing Institute’s Emerging Issues Initiative, leaders across the industry have identified those issues that have the greatest potential to affect the food industry in the next three to five years. By understanding these emerging issues, retail dietitians can position themselves to help supermarkets move successfully into the future.
- Emerging new consumerism. Consumers are calling for more involvement in their food choices and their reasons for selecting food goes beyond cost, taste and convenience. There is a demand for transparency along with specialized product options to meet individual needs for global flavors, sustainability and health attributes.
- Food production. Shifts caused by global climate change, technology, environmental concerns and values-based decisions will demand changes in the ways that food is produced. To ensure food supply sufficiency, new technologies such as gene editing will come into play. The challenge will be to manage regulatory burdens, food safety issues and credible and consistent consumer education to instill shopper trust.
- Artificial intelligence and technology. The ways in which technology will transform the food industry include changes in human work roles along with improved efficiencies in operations to help retailers remain competitive. In addition, advanced data analytics will be able to provide key insights to shopper behaviors, but privacy concerns will demand that retailers have methods for protecting data.
- Workforce. Global changes will have impact on hiring, training, management and the overall corporate culture. The competition for labor will continue and it may be more difficult to attract and retain employees. An evolution in job responsibilities and skills at retail will also be seen due to rising education levels and improved technology. The industry must prepare for increases in minimum wage and healthcare costs coupled with the desire for other benefits.
- New marketplace. Along with continued retail consolidation through mergers and acquisitions, the typical retail store format will be reimagined. The physical retail space may take on new functions such as dining areas, food courts, zones for customer engagement/education, with technology integrated throughout. These changes will also have labor implications.