THE RAGHAVAN REPORT
By Raghavan Sampathkumar
In many parts of the world, April is the beginning of a new financial year and usually we can see optimistic outlook and predictions are being made about the growth and potential of the economy in general and also for each sector. Let me also attempt to make some predictions not by crystal-ball gazing but by observing the trends and developments in the global food industry in the recent past and through my interactions with the diverse industry stakeholders.
One of the most important 'P's - Public perception
From a politician trying to win votes to a private company trying to establish its brands or defend itself at the times of crises, the growing importance of public perception cannot be ignored.
I always used to say to my clients and/or audiences whenever I speak at any conferences that it is no longer a question of 'cost of doing business' but 'cost of losing business' that needs to be taken into consideration while formulating business strategies and my friends working in the agrochemical industry would be nodding their heads in total agreement.
With the explosion of social media, lies and half-truths travel faster and easier than facts and evidence. Today's consumer is more confused and time-starved than ever before. Hence everyone including those that want to push their messages - commercial, philosophical or political - had to make use of these channels and cut through the clutter and clamour.
I again reiterate that public perception is of utmost importance for ensuring innovative technologies to be commercialised and accepted by the people. It would be suicidal for any company or organisation to avoid or run away from the media and public in this era of hyperconnected world.
Protein obsession and health
I observed in the recent few years, a growing interest across the world particularly on protein and plant proteins are getting way more attention in the traditional meat-dominant Western world. This trend is likely to continue, at least as a complementing factor to the existing high level of animal protein consumption in these markets.
Burgers made completely of plant proteins may be a total surprise to these consumers. But in the developing world, particularly in South Asia, plant proteins have already been in the cuisines of people since several millennia. So, I would foresee another latent trend in terms of increased consumption of plant protein as 'ingredients'.
For example, Canada's progressive pulse industry had long been forging ahead with the idea of mixing pulses, flour and its fractions with traditional carbohydrate-dominant foods such as bread, pasta etc. Even research studies were pursued in India to tap into the huge multi-billion-dollar snacks segments making snacking a healthy and guilt-free option for the consumers who care about their health conditions such as obesity or diabetes.
This trend is subtle and subcutaneous, but it is going to gain momentum as even developing countries have these kinds of demographic and public health challenges such as malnutrition and obesity at the same time. A growing body of evidence clearly demonstrates the impact of non-communicable diseases in the economies of both developed and developing world and the governments and private sector are finding their own ways and means to respond to the trend through policies and products.
It would be very interesting to see how these two aspects go together particularly when a third party which is keen to sabotage both the above-mentioned players try to enter the minds of the people through different means including social media. We have already started to see this happening since last few decades in the case of genetically modified crops, advanced breeding techniques, new innovations such as golden rice etc. I will attempt to bring forth more profound trends that I see having the potential to make far greater impacts in the global agri-food sector.