With more consumers focusing on their health, favoring “clean” eating over processed options, F&B operators are having to adapt their product lines. Abdul Kader Saadi, managing director of Glee Hospitality, discusses how demand for non-processed foods just keeps on rising.
Food industry professionals have always operated at a crossroad opting between optimizing their overheads costs of operation and maintaining authenticity and standards of their food and service. In 2021 pre existing challenges in operation have maintained their steady rise coupled with new challenges that continue to emerge and affect the food industry landscape for F&B operators. The general spectrum can be summarized as F&B operators needing to optimize their supply chain and waste reduction whilst remaining transparent and being conscious of evolving customer demand trends. Due to the massive amount of information and research now being made available via avenues like the Internet, customer perspective has taken a dramatic shift and is far more conscious of topics, which include the quality/standard of their food preparation and industry trade practices. It is due to this factor that trends such as customer demand for non processed food has seen a steady increase in light of emerging data labeling the detrimental effects of processed and ultra processed food. However before we explore the determining factors detailing the rise of non processed food demand we need to outline the core tenets of why processed food has made such a strong impact on the F&B industry in previous decades.
To put it simply food processing solved the universal problem with food preparation in that ultimately all food (excluding honey) has a finite shelf life i.e. given enough time it will spoil and ultimately become inedible. With the rise in global F&B markets and increased shipping/trade routes between destinations creating greater access and demand for seasonal foods this created a need for the means to stave off this expiration process. Food processing via adding salt, sugar, fat, additives, preservatives, artificial colors, canning, freezing and milling are all ultimately methods to increase the time a food item can be kept before consumption. Food processing standardized practices allowed operators to cut costs, which translated to cheaper food being readily made available to the consumer (this can be seen in canned food items for example). Mass produced, processed foods are far cheaper to produce than individually prepared non preserved items and allowed suppliers to provide a cheap, recognizable and easily marketable item across a wide market share. However food-processing preparation though quite advantageous in the afore mentioned instances is also a double-edged sword and there is also significant data to suggest that are also several harmful effects as well. Our bodies need to consume food for energy based on a system of macros and requirements that we utilize to operate efficiently. A healthy ratio of proteins, fats and carbohydrates are all-important but the human body also requires a wide array of vitamins, minerals and electrolytes which all support higher brain and motor functions. Whilst in certain cases certain foods such as milk and juice can be fortified with additional minerals and vitamins in many cases a high consumption rate of processed foods can lead to massive increases in sodium and sugar intake that has a detrimental effect to consumer health. In other cases certain processing procedures can also strip and alter the nutrient contents of food making them less nutritious by the time they are consumed.
Today, the market is more health conscious than it has ever been before. Where as previous generations opted for fast and cheap meals to sustain their lifestyles, modern generations are becoming far more aware of some of the detrimental effects of their ultra processed food options. The food we consume has a large impact on our health, and ultra-processed foods like candy, soft drinks, pizza and fast food do not contain enough of the beneficial nutrients that the body requires. The more ultra-processed foods we eat, the poorer the overall nutritional quality of our diet. As a result nation wide obesity across several states in the western world has almost always been linked back to an ultra processed, nutrient lacking diet combined with a sedentary lifestyle.
In light of the above there is now a noticeable trend shift and increased demand for a number of alternatives that include a demand for fresh and clean food ingredients, fresh, preservative-free foods that promote health and an overall health-based trend focusing on whole or unprocessed foods. Labels such as ‘’organic’’ and ‘’all natural’’ have become common labels on many food items with customers increasingly seeking these out when deciding on their brand choice and selection. As with any industry, customer trends will have a direct impact on industry practices and the processed vs. non-processed food market is no exception. Customer demand for an economic balance/compromise between healthy and cost effective options will in turn mold the suppliers supply chain model for increased options that combine the best benefits of processing with enriching, all natural, non processed food options.