As we settle into the second month of 2019, I’m compelled to draw upon two macro trends that will increasingly influence food industry decision-makers for years to come.

The first is sustainability. How we grow, process, package, ship and dispose of food is changing. Environmental and regulatory forces (not to mention consumer demand) are going to increase pressure on food supply chains to a point where fundamental processes that have served the industry for the better part of a century may evolve into something we do not completely understand today.

The second is relativity. Connecting with consumers on their terms is a challenge that product developers and marketers will face on a routine basis. The traditional approach of identifying a market through demographics will continue to come up short. Consumers are revealing their complexities in an unprecedented manner, and yet marketers continue to filter them into tidy categories. Without a sophisticated examination of consumers, companies risk putting themselves on a path to irrelevance.


Impossible Foods recently announced its first major product upgrade, the next-generation Impossible Burger. According to the company, the new Impossible Burger has as much bioavailable iron and protein as a comparable serving of ground beef from cows. It may seem incongruous to discuss genetic engineering in the name of sustainability, but Impossible Foods shows that, at least in its case, cutting edge food science and technology can deliver a product that satisfies consumer demand at a lower environmental impact.

Likewise, Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture and Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN recently introduced sustainability metrics that provide commodity crop producers and the supply chain with a seamless solution for assessing performance. The new program will yield comprehensive data sets for farmers and suppliers to build, track and transform their sustainable production efforts.


In a broad sense, food and beverage product marketing is all about relevance, and always has been. Today though, a notion of relevance hinges on a company’s willingness to evolve fundamental aspects of its business model to adapt to consumer demand.

Mondeléz International, Inc. recently announced that it will move its global headquarters to Chicago.

“We sought a location that reflects our new, dynamic and more consumer-centric growth culture, and which will make existing and future colleagues proud to be working at the global headquarters of a $26 billion dollar global snacking leader,” said Chairman and Chief Executive of Mondeléz International, Dirk Van de Put.

Mondeléz is making the move from the suburbs of Chicago to the city in order to remain relevant to its employees and consumers.

Walmart Inc. recently introduced a concept store for what it is calling a “Walmart Town Center.” As part of its Walmart Reimagined campaign, the retailer is aiming to boost store traffic by converting excess parking space to experimental communities comprised of food halls, recreation areas and even mobile healthcare units.

Retailers, product developers, food suppliers and farmers are all faced with challenges in regard to sustainability and relevance. In my estimation, the organizations that uncover a model and message of long-term sustainable approaches to business will be the ones who establish a rich relevance with consumers.