Meeting consumers’ thirst for innovative new foods requires equally innovative strategies, says Amir Chaudhary.
Innovation by the FMCG industry is a key driver of economic growth and employment all over the world – from humble street stalls in remote villages, to Michelin-starred restaurants in large urban centres.
The culinary tastes of those served by the food and drink industry have always been influenced by a variety of sources, whether through direct exposure from immigrant communities, or indirectly through travel writers and documentary filmmakers. This has created a natural pace for innovation, to which the supply chain has always had time to adapt.
As the world transforms into a digital global village, we suddenly find ourselves overwhelmed, invited to participate simultaneously in all the culinary delights humanity has to offer. Wholesale’s challenge is to provide leadership while remaining relevant by matching this accelerated demand for innovative products.
At Indus Foods, we understand that the average wholesale customer is a family-run enterprise, staking its future on the success of the business. It is therefore our responsibility to ensure that all our customers are given every opportunity to stay at the forefront of their marketplace, be it foodservice, manufacturing or retail.
Our ethos is to take the risk out of new product launches by transforming them from an art into a science.
We aim to achieve this by rationalising the procedure for bringing new and upcoming food trends to the marketplace through a continuous, four-phase approach to innovation.
The first phase starts beyond Indus Foods’ headquarters in Birmingham. At the heart of local communities on almost every continent, our sourcing agents and partners in the supply chain are given the responsibility to scour their local and regional geographies for consistently high-performing trends, yielding a continuous pipeline of ideas from around the world.
The second phase takes place back at our HQ and is managed by our very own ‘foodies’, who conduct real-world tests from the kitchen through to the supply chain.
For every 10 ideas our regional experts unearth, only a handful make it past this rigorous testing.
At this point, we match the risk profile of the food trend to the risk appetite of our customer base. An extensive sampling exercise is then conducted with the support of our very own customer testing network.
This third phase leads into the fourth phase, as it gives our customers direct input into our decision about whether a new food trend is likely to be commercially viable for our sector of the market.
For me, these are the innovative trends to watch out for:
• Niche brands: new food entrepreneurs quickly penetrating global markets by leveraging digital platforms to market their unique selling points, such as Nom Noms, Haloodies or The Saucy Affair.
• Augmented transparency: digitally-encoding unique supply chain elements and broad product data for the consumer to access.
• Food styles: an upsurge in consumers switching to lifestyle-driven food choices, such as kosher and halal; protein alternatives, such as Quorn and Soylent; or allergen-free products.
• Simplicity: whether cooking or dining, there is a significant rise in consumer demand for healthy, natural ingredients and simple cooking styles.
The most enjoyable part of innovation at Indus Foods is the launch of commercially-viable new products and their success with our customers. Long may this continue in our business and in the industry as a whole.
Amir Chaudhary is a director at Today’s Group wholesaler member Indus Foods.