The 2022 Rabobank North America F&A Summit included a series of breakout sessions designed to initiate thought sharing and discover different points of views surrounding a variety of key issues including consumer trends that will continue to impact the F&A industry into 2023.
Summit attendees joined an open-forum discussion titled “Recognizing the Impacts of Consumer Trends” to hear Nicholas Fereday (Senior Consumer Foods Analyst) and Tom Bailey (Senior Consumer Foods Analyst) examine the economic, social, and policy environments that continue to impact consumer purchasing decisions and will have both short- and long-run repercussions on retaining and growing market share.
Positioning Yourself in a Time of Permacrisis
Today’s consumer is living through a time of permacrisis—the feeling of being faced by a period of war, inflation, and political instability. For Fereday and Bailey, these factors can cause consumer-related trends to be endlessly fascinating and ever-changing while persisting to impact all aspects of the consumer’s life. As attendees joined the discussion, one question was posed: What upcoming trends and developments are most likely to impact the consumer?
Between 2021 and 2024, there is predicted to be as much as 15% inflation in the core cogs affecting the food industry, with 12% occurring in 2022 alone. However, the Producer Price Index (PPI) is forecasted to rise by only an additional 2%.
As for which category has seen the most inflation? Bailey shared the top two inflationary products in 2022 based on Consumer Price Index (CPI) are:
Margarine, with prices up 47%
Eggs, with prices up 43%
Continuing the conversation, one breakout session participant added that the high CPI of eggs could become permanent as consumers are still paying inflated prices. Another attendee explained that in this current inflationary environment, and with a constant strong consumer and retailer demand, producers have been presented with the opportunity to reprice their products.
In fact, the consumer has remained quite resilient and has shown a willingness to pay higher prices for goods, despite being more financially insecure than in pre-pandemic years.
Closing out this conversation, two trends have been seen in response to increased prices:
- The decrease in size or quantity of goods, known as shrinkflation, to keep prices similar
- A shift toward private label products, allowing consumers to get similar quality goods for less
With inflation evident across several sectors of the F&A industry and continuing decreases in consumer confidence, we could be standing at a critical inflection point heading into Q1 2023.
The Return of Private Label
With higher CPI, consumers have been trading down to cheaper alternatives, with private-label goods taking 1% of all grocery sales in 2022. Once consumers make the switch to private-label goods, they may be unlikely to switch back to more expensive products that offer similar quality and value.
This shift toward private label goods has caused many retailers to work on improving their production quality and supply chain security while aligning initiatives with long-term sustainability goals in an effort to retain customers.
In the U.S., the private label market share is 19% while the EU’s holds 30%. However, new practices and production efforts can drive a big change in the U.S. food industry, creating significant upside potential in the private label market.
The Collapse in Demand for Plant-Based Foods
After double-digit growth during the pandemic, the demand for alternative meat hit a wall in the U.S. in 2021 and has shown no signs of recovery.
Alternative dairy, as well as alternative meat, have faced many challenges surrounding consumer demand. However, alternative dairy has outperformed the latter by underselling and overdelivering in terms of availability, price point, and marketing. Plant-based meat did the opposite, underdelivering in taste and texture.
Consumers were willing to forgive the long, unnatural ingredient lists of alternative products, but are now reconsidering and looking to companies across F&A to find solutions.
Fereday and Bailey also informed attendees about the recent U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval of cultivated meat, which essentially stated that the FDA has no objections to the product. This is a potential “watershed moment” in food with the approval of cellular agriculture, and is a trend to watch as cultivated meat becomes more readily available in the domestic market moving forward.
In the end-of-year trend predictions from ADM, Specialty Food Association (SFA), and Whole Foods, climate-friendly products were a consistent mention. Consumers are now realizing that their purchases and eating habits have greater and more far-reaching impacts on the planet’s health and well-being.
With growing environmental concerns, companies continue to experiment with new, innovative technology to create crossovers and climate-friendly products that support the movement toward carbon-neutral emissions.
Fereday and Bailey shared some emerging trends that have resulted from the shift to green-friendly products:
- Thaw-and-eat requires no warming process with heat – consumers simply thaw the product and eat it as-is. Nestle’s thaw-from-frozen Deliwich is a great example and has a $600 million market.
- Companies are also jumping on regenerative agriculture, which is presented as the future, with hopes of becoming the sole technique for farming. A recent partnership from ADM and PepsiCo aims to convert two million acres of farmland in the Midwest to regenerative agriculture over the next seven years.
When asked about the outlook of carbon-neutral products, one participant shared, “If you can get the pricing of the carbon down, and you can enforce it, there’s no doubt in my mind that the entire system works.”
The Untouched 5th Topic: Ultra-Processed Foods
The depth and breadth of conversations limited the trends talk to four key areas, but both Fereday and Bailey acknowledge the fifth trend positioning itself for 2023: ultra-processed foods. These food and beverages that have undergone extensive processing currently account for over half of the daily calories consumed by adults in the U.S., Canada, and UK. Still a relatively new term, it is one that both session leaders anticipate will be discussed more in the U.S. for positive reasons. The ultra-processed foods label casts a wide net around many emerging companies in on-trend categories, such as better-for-you snacking and plant-based foods, and is an area business owners in F&A should keep an eye on for future opportunity.
For questions and more information on this topic, please contact Nicholas Fereday or Tom Bailey.
Attendees of the Summit included C-suite leaders within the North American F&A sector as well as financial experts and influential startups from across the F&A supply chain.
Rabobank Group is a global financial services leader providing wholesale and retail banking, leasing, and real estate services in more than 38 countries worldwide. Founded over a century ago, Rabobank today is one of the world’s largest banks with over $660 billion in assets.
In the Americas, Rabobank Wholesale Banking North America is a premier corporate and investment bank to the food, agribusiness, commodities and energy industries. Rabo AgriFinance, a subsidiary of Rabobank, is a leading financial services provider for farmers, ranchers and agribusinesses in the United States. Together, we provide sector expertise, strategic counsel and tailored financial solutions to clients across the entire value chain. Visit www.RabobankWholesaleBankingNA.com and www.RaboAg.com.