According to a new report from Lux Research, Digital tools are key to weathering disruptions in the food and agriculture value chain. The company’s Foresight 2021 report identified the top technologies food and agriculture leaders should look to in the year ahead.
“The agrifood ecosystem is experiencing a phase of rapid, intense change, where most of the growth in the space in recent years has gone to companies outside the top 20 players,” said Joshua Haslun, PhD, senior analyst at Lux Research. “As smaller and more agile brands meet consumer demand for personalization, larger brands will need to look for innovative solutions to regain lost ground and get ahead.”
Investments in digital technologies can help companies gain agility and better respond to changing consumer demands, he added.
The first technology, bioinformatics, traditionally has been used in pharmaceutical applications but may offer opportunities for food and beverage companies looking to accelerate ingredient discovery. Companies can use bioinformatics to better understand connections between potential ingredients and their impacts on human health.
Companies like Brightseed are working with food and beverage formulators to lower the burden of discovery. The San Francisco-based biotechnology startup uses an artificial intelligence platform to analyze millions of bioactive compounds and map their potential applications.
Companies looking to speed up the product development process may turn to ingredient informatics.
Companies also can leverage ingredients informatics to better predict the consumer response to new products, flavors, and formats.
“There are ways you can work with players to help rapidly profile that flavor and predict what the response might be, and how that links to other formulation characteristics,” Mr. Haslun said. “It allows you to make better, more rapid decisions about the ingredients you include and the ingredients you’re thinking about for future products.”
Marketers of plant-based products are drawing closer to achieving price parity with animal-based products, but opportunities still exist to improve the taste, texture, and color of alternative proteins.
Alternative protein technologies that address multiple sensory factors may offer the most promising path forward. Cell-based fats and mycelium both address texture and color, for example, while fermented ingredients address color along with taste and texture.