Last week, the team from @SandhurstFineFoods were a major partner in the QSR Media Conference Awards held in Sydney.
Mimmo Lubrano hosted a food trends panel discussion which included a panel of expert industry figures Venessa Barnes from @inspiredbyAustralianPork, Melissa Pepers @bonboau, John McFadden from @SelectFreshProvidores and Gary Powell of @SandwichChefs.
There were many interesting predictions made for the food service operators, and how in a world of convenience, they will likely become more popular amongst consumers if they stay ahead of the game.
Several years ago, it was correctly predicted that QSR’s would develop into more niche areas as consumer demand and palettes evolved.
Leading chef, John McFadden from Select Fresh Providores, observed that the dining scene has changed, and it’s how we accommodate those changes that is of utmost importance. “Look at a 50-year-old person and how they were 20 years ago – this demographic is driving choice”. John said niche markets he felt had the most growth are plant-based produce and meals, and QSR’s need to consider where these style of products fit into their brand.
“The shortage of certain products needs to be a consideration,” said Venessa Barnes from Australian Pork, “It’s an interesting space when it comes to protein as we head into a global shortage. We need to consider this and plan accordingly”.
Another important driver in brand evolution is quality and premiumisation. Testing the market and consumers will demand new and innovative products, therefore it’s important QSR’s keep up with their customers.
“Consumers were also looking for a premium product,” said Gary Powell from Sandwich Chefs, “We are making a huge investment by communicating that we are a premium product. Will consumers will pay a premium price for a product that looks healthy? That is the question.”
Another premiumisation experience on the rise is cafeterias being branded as food halls, and increasing their image as a quality venue. Brands are teaming up and sharing space to drive a quality customer experience.
Authenticity was also a hot topic and discussed on every panel throughout the day. Consumers know when they see a fake, and this can be detrimental to a brand as it creates a level of distrust.
Millennials are also driving an authentic experience. When it comes to millennials, authenticity is hugely topical. You need to be genuine and authentic with your values.
Other subjects that rose in the conversation was traceability and how it is now a huge factor in the food chain. To be authentic you must be able to know where your food is grown, how it is grown and how it is treated along the journey to the plate. If you know this you can then tell the story. People will pay a premium when they have trust and belief in the product.
An easy way to bring this into business is to have a top level campaign and execute the campaign at a local level. This is extremely effective, drives personal interaction such as social media and if it works, it may be a game changer.
Sustainability is a popular topic that we hear about, and we all have an obligation to do the right thing for our customers and for the environment. Weaving sustainability into business is becoming commonplace and a major driver for many QSR’s.
For Australian Pork, Venessa said “it’s one of our drivers. It’s front and centre, our R&D team are working hard to improve the way farms are run when it comes to produce, energy …it’s endless”.
At Select Fresh Providores, “sustainability and waste are now pulped into a pulpmaster. It is removed daily and taken back to the farms. All our natural waste goes back to the farms for food and fertiliser.”
“Wastage is our responsibility. We take the stress away from the end user so the importance of traceability comes into it here again”, said John McFadden.
On the other end, IT and AI is playing a major part in serving the customers appetite for convenience. This is evident by the amount of technology being introduced including pre order, pick up apps, kiosk ordering, online ordering and delivery.
The panel made their predictions for the next 12 months, which includes a stronger focus on sustainability, plant-based packaging and origin of ingredients.
“It’s going to get more exciting. Food is a great space to be working in at the moment, and where it’s going in the future is endless. There is nothing stopping advancement and innovation”, said Gary.
“We’re going to see a stronger sustainability focus with packaging and waste. Frozen items and guilt-free treats such as avocado and hummus will become popular. And ocean inspired flavours including seaweed flavour snacks and treats will grow in demand”, said John McFadden.
Melissa sees packaging as a strong trend in the next 12 months. “We are running out of plant-based material overseas and in Denmark, grocery stores are doing what we call ‘clean labelling’ with suppliers adding their carbon footprint to labels”.
The common thread throughout the panel discussion at the QSR Conference was that in order to stay alive in this industry you must continually meet consumer demands. Be prepared to invest in understanding what it is your consumer wants, to make sure you give yourself the best chance of successful survival.