The way that food is produced has, in principle, changed little over many thousands of years – save for the mechanization of the process and the economies of scale now being put into practice by the largest food producers.
Consumer attitudes are changing, and with it, so must the needs of the agriculture industry to ensure that its attitudes align with customers – this shift in thinking is driving the latest trends in the agricultural industries. Here are some of the key concepts that farmers and food producers are having to respond to:
Consumers are more curious than ever about what’s in their food, how it is grown – or killed – and where it comes from. Food scandals from the BSE outbreak of the early 1990s to the more recent horse meat scandal, have meant that consumers are demanding to know exactly what they are putting on their plates.
The rise of ‘clean eating’ and the growing demand for locally-sourced produce due to environmental concerns, is driving a stronger relationship between growers and breeders, and the consumers of their foodstuffs. Technology, particularly social media, means that food producers can now directly deal with the public and consumers – which gives them greater control over pricing, marketing – and profits.
Intelligent packaging is also beginning to make waves – as food producer look both to maximize longevity and to offer the consumer the information they require – information as such nutritional stats, traceability and above all – food safety. Will also helps for brands to build stronger relationships with their target consumers.
Long-term declines in the agriculture industries – in the UK at least – need to be met with more pro-active, farmer-friendly policies from the government. Investment is needed in the long-term to make the UK more self-sustainable. Allied to this, uncertainty over access to the single market after 2019 and the type of trade tariffs the nation will face, mean that short-term trends look to be adverse for the UK’s food producers.
The growing influence of technology in farming is still some way from its potential, but this is having an impact on both jobs and food processing. As technologies progress it is expected to create new methodologies and, of course, greater efficiency – but there is still some way before we see another agricultural revolution.