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Four examples of new strategies

Trends develop in the food industry according to what is hip in the eye of consumers, but also with respect to emerging needs and requirements in society and the natural environment. In the following section of this learning resource, four fields of present and future research and development are used as examples:

  • Convenience
  • Health
  • Animal welfare
  • Sustainability.

Convenience: Customer satisfaction can be achieved in many ways - one is by making your customer's life easier and more comfortable. Increasing convenience has become an important factor in our consumer culture and the aim is to benefit consumers in terms of time and effort spent at different stages of buying, using and disposing of a product or service (Berry et al., 2002; Yale & Venkatesh, 1986).

Note: In marketing literature, 'convenience products' are a classification for goods that the consumer purchases frequently, immediately, and with a minimum of effort (Kotler & Keller, 2009). This, however, is different from the sense used above, which relates to products that attempt to satisfy a customer's desire for more convenience.

Health: We are what we eat! This especially refers to the extent to which the food we eat actually contributes to our health and well-being. From a public policy point of view this issue has never been as important as it is today, when overconsumption of fatty and sugary foods is seen as contributing to the obesity epidemic. A balanced diet and bioactive substances in food (fibre, unsaturated fatty acids, antioxidants etc.) and their use in the manufacture of food products have the potential to contribute to the optimal health of populations and reduce the risk of chronic disease. The food business is highly responsible for public health. Responsible marketing communication can assist consumers in making appropriate choices about food and beverage products, and in understanding the role of nutrition, diet and physical activity in healthy lifestyles (ICC, 2003).

Animal welfare: Ethical considerations must be taken into account in every business. Concern for animal welfare is increasing, especially among young people. The massive increase in animal production of the last decades has raised a wide range of ethical issues, including concern for animal welfare, which has to be considered alongside environmental sustainability and food safety (Fraser, 2008).

Issues related to animal welfare in pig production:

  • housing of farrowing sows in crates
  • slatted floors with no use of straw
  • castration of piglets
  • space allowance and tail biting in slaughter pigs.

Sustainability: The ongoing debate on climate change strongly affects the issue of meat consumption. The big question is what the future is going to look like. Indeed, meat production requires considerable land and water and it produces high CO2 emissions along the production chain (FAO, 2006). In general, environmental considerations are expected to become the biggest challenge in the future consumption of food - of which meat production is the most critical one. The food industry has a great responsibility to preserve nature and a sustainable business is an organization that participates in environment-friendly or green activities to ensure that all processes, products, and manufacturing activities adequately address current environmental concerns while maintaining a profit.

Some issues related to sustainability in meat production:

  • mass farming versus differentiated farming practices (small farm, organic etc.)
  • consumption of locally produced meat
  • consumer diet (reduced meat consumption)
  • alternative land use (livestock versus plants).