The future of food (III): Population and eating habits
Since the dawn of time human beings have eaten. Besides being one of our basic needs, it is also one of the greatest pleasures of life for many people.
Traditionally, our closest environment was our source of food and it used to provide us with enough products to cover our energy needs. Native plants and animals, together with the various methods of food preservation in times of scarcity, have marked the culinary traditions of each region: salting, preserves or curing are characteristic of each area depending on the climate and access to raw materials.
In the twentieth century, industrialization and the incorporation of women to the labour market led to profound changes in the eating habits of the population. We are currently living in a constant evolution of habits that goes from the way we purchase up to how we consume food. Companies in the food industry need to be watchful in order to be able to develop products that meet the new demands and needs of the consumers.
The current world does not understand borders and even less so when it comes to food. You can find Japanese, Lebanese or Mexican restaurants in any European city and eating a mango or an avocado is no longer a strange thing. We have incorporated quinoa and chia in our daily meals and we have made what was once exotic a part of our routine.
One of the most relevant effects of this trend is the increase in exports. We want to be able to find everything in any part of the world but, and although it may seem contradictory, often the biggest challenge for companies when tackling a new market is adapting their traditional products to the tastes and preferences of foreign consumers (apart from, of course, to the rules and regulations).
At Sant Dalmai we started exporting outside of Europe in 2013 and we have found that each new market represents an exciting challenge. We have developed more than 50 specific products for foreign markets and we are convinced that there is still much to do and to grow in this area.
“On the go”
Another apparent change in terms of eating habits is the time we spend in the kitchen. Our hectic lifestyle, or simply the ease of finding alternatives, has reduced the time we dedicate to cooking.
It is increasingly common to eat outside, order home delivery (home, work or other places) or have a pre-cooked meal in the fridge that only needs to be heated.
There are very few restaurants nowadays that do not offer home delivery and supermarkets avoid being left behind by offering ready-to-eat solutions on their shelves. The boom in pre-packed ready-to-eat products is a good indication of this trend and it is clear that catering and retail will compete to be the consumers’ choice in each of their meals.
Also, new eating habits bring new business opportunities. We see it for example with the appearance of dark kitchens (restaurants specializing in home delivery) or in the recent movement we have seen in many supermarkets and large stores that are offering products to be consumed on premises.
At Sant Dalmai we think that the whole chain should work together in order to offer nutritious and tasty products ready to be finished and consumed anywhere (home, restaurant or supermarket). The challenge is to offer differentiating solutions that provide value to the consumer and meet expectations in terms of taste and nutrition.
In 2016 life expectancy at birth in the European Union was over 80 years whereas in 1960 it was below 70. In just over 50 years our life expectancy has increased by more than 10 years, which together with the decrease in the birth rate, means that the average age of the population is rising.
Our society is aging, but it does so better. The evolution of medicine towards palliative rather than curative solutions and the ever more detailed knowledge of our body make our dietary habits, along with exercise, the recipe for a good quality of life in the old age.
In this context, textures also become relevant. As our body grows older, soft food solutions gain importance as they are easier to eat and digest. The current products available are very limited but we are convinced that new ones will appear that will satisfy the palate of the elderly.
Additionally, the development of nutrigenomics and nutrigenetics will enable the development of personalized diets that preserve and even improve the health of each individual. At Sant Dalmai we are convinced that one of the challenges of the food industry will be to offer personalized solutions that are both nutritious and tasty and that provide the maximum possible benefits to each person.