The Best of Zest – 2018

In 2018, the Zest Labs Blog provided a timeline for what was topical in the fresh food supply chain industry. Google Analytics details which blogs most resonated with our readers. Our analysis reveals a few interesting fresh food industry trends in 2018. In the “Best of Zest” we offer you highlights from the year and some hints of things to look for in 2019.

Fresh Food Industry Trend #1: Food Technology Is “So Hot Right Now”

New food-related technologies, particularly blockchain for the fresh food supply chain, are hot trend topics. At the start of 2018, there were articles in the press on virtually a daily basis touting the blockchain for the fresh food supply chain as the “next internet.” Suppliers and retailers alike were wondering if they’d already missed the boat and rushed to explore how blockchain for the supply chain can impact their business.

It was not until this spring that I spotted a news article claiming blockchain for the food supply chain was never going to work – the first skeptic, at least in my daily purview of industry news –which turned out to be the start of a gradual cooling trend around blockchain. As a result, people started asking good and legitimate questions and, as Gartner would term it, the hype cycle for blockchain for the supply chain moved from the “Peak of Inflated Expectations” into the “Trough of Disillusionment.” Thus, coverage of blockchain became more even-handed as the industry began to realize there was indeed something “there” though more study would be needed. In 2019, those studies (and more trials) will proceed and blockchain will continue as a fresh food supply chain industry trend in 2019.

Apart from blockchain, another technology fresh food industry trend was that a number of new AgTech solutions hit the market as the growers, suppliers and grocers began to realize access to data and its accompanying insights could significantly help with post-harvest processes and operations. But, again, what do these post-harvest agriculture technologies – from imaging to coatings – have to offer? Do they prevent waste? Progressive suppliers and retailers are interested in discovering how food technology can help their business – before their competitors show them how it’s done. Time will tell how this fresh food industry trend pans out.

Fresh Food Industry Trend #2: A Perfect Storm Drives Supermarket Metamorphosis

2018 has been a year of almost unparalleled upheaval in the industry, particularly for food retailers. Amazon buying Whole Foods created its own fresh food industry trend as the impact (or fear) of fully sank in – at least to the point where most grocers began to rework their strategies to keep up in the new competitive landscape. Further increasing the competition, Aldi and Lidl were offering discounted, quality food, including produce. Even Dollar General started talking about fresh produce. All in all, plenty of competition to go around.

Then there’s the growth of new business formats including online shopping for groceries (including produce and meats – generally unheard of before 2018), click-and-collect, delivery and meal kits (both in store and delivered). The entire shopping experience has changed.

To survive and thrive in this new competitive arena, every grocer will need to rethink their business strategy. One area they’re considering is cutting costs and improving efficiency in their fresh food supply chains. For example, some traditional grocers, such as Kroger, have upped their game with investments in companies like Ocado and other partnerships that impact food distribution. We expect to see how this fresh food trend will impact and reshape the industry for years to come.

Fresh Food Industry Trend #3: Gen Z Are the New Millennials

Always a popular topic among baby boomer-heavy management teams is how to market and sell to millennials. While we’re still trying to figure that out, we’re now seeing that this may be passé, and we should now be thinking about Gen Z – the digital natives. Will they even go to a grocery store? Will they buy non-organic produce? Will they eat less meat or dump carbs? We will have to wait and see how this fresh food industry trend emerges and evolves as a result of these Gen Z consumers.

A Unique Year

2018 is and was a year like no other; that’s part of what makes the AgTech and fresh food industries so interesting right now. There’s a lot going on when it comes to customers, buying habits, supply chains and food technology. I hope The Best of Zest helps bring the highlights of 2018 into focus. 2019 should be even more exciting with new fresh food industry trends.

To learn more about Zest Labs thoughts on these is contributing to these fresh food supply chain trends, read The Best of Zest – 2018.