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Covering local produce, imported goods, exported goods, and everything created and made from those ingredients we search far and wide to find, the food and drink industry is one which dominates global marketplaces and international relations all over the world. Overseen by local federations and hygiene standards agencies, with each country and region abiding by its own best practice legislation and regulations, the food and drink industry is one which is often required to conform to various and ever-changing rules – and yet remains one of the most saturated sectors in terms of choice, brand variety and product usage.
When it comes to shopping across the food and drink industry, there are a number of different customer touch points which each have their own unique ideologies, best practice guidelines and marketing tools, as well as their own selection of big retail names. In order to understand this variety of touch points, we must look at the way in which customers are encouraged to interact with retailers and brands, the prices which consumers are willing to pay in order to enjoy a specific section of the industry, and the way that vouchers and deals apply across different areas of the sector as a whole. This includes restaurants and fast food outlets, grocery and supermarket stores, bars and pubs, cafes and coffee shops, takeaways, and even street food offerings and food vans.
The point is all of these touch points are designed to attract a different kind of audience at a different time of their life and their day – with audience and value depending on what is being served and how it is being presented.
Exploring the food and drink industry
Without even realising it, much of our daily routine revolves around the food and drink industry – taking into account meals we prepare in our homes, coffees and cold drinks we pick up as we go about our day, snacks we are given or purchase for ourselves, and drinks we enjoy at the end of a long day when we meet up with friends. All of these items are products of the food and drink industry, with many of our specific choices driven by trend, preference, and the power of marketing within the sector.
One of the overriding influences in the food and drink industry and in the way in which we interact with various products, come from the imports and exports that different countries and regions engage in. Most Western areas of the world like the UK and USA, as well as most of Europe, benefit from food and drink products which are produced all over the world – retaining good relations in order to ensure that products and ingredient can continue to be shipped around the world. Of course, a lot of this has to be monitored to fit in line with regulations across different areas, however for the most part popular local food products can be grown on a mass scale and then shipped around the world – a good example being milk and cereal products which are both produced in bulk in specific agricultural areas, then shipped out by the farmers and producers.
Another form of this global exporting across the food and drinks industry deals with local delicacies and national dishes, with a popular example being Italian food which we can now enjoy across a number of high street restaurant chains around the world; including Pizza Express, Prezzo and Bella Italia to name but a few. Without the concept of exporting, these foods would never have entered the realm of British or American cuisine, and we wouldn’t have the strong Italian chain brands we enjoy today.
Top products in the food and drink sector
In order to understand the scale of the food and drink sector, it helps to first break the industry down into different areas of interest: primarily looking first at the marketing and sales of ingredients, and then turning attention to the finished products which can be purchased across different outlets associated with the same industry. Of course, there is some crossover present in the food and drink industry, for example in supermarkets and grocery stores where brands have created ready meals which deliver the finished product but in such a way that the product cannot be eaten on the spot. Taking this even further, supermarkets as well as other retail stores like health and beauty and drug stores also now offer sandwiches and on-the-go snacks – transforming their offering into something which works both in their target sector and in the food and drink sector by delivering specific products for consumer ease.
When we look at readymade products and food-on-the-go items in particular, it very quickly becomes clear that much of the marketing and advertising of these products relies on convenience and ease – linking with a very prominent trend in the food and drink industry which is constantly evolving the way in which consumers approach eating on the move. Some of the most popular products linked with this trend include:
- Sandwiches and toasties
- Takeaway coffees and cold drinks
- Snack bars and cereal bars
- Fruit products
The way that we are eating, particularly on the move is changing – though this is not limited to merely packaged foods and items we can buy across supermarket and convenience stores. We are also seeing a similar shift in the way that buyers approach the idea of eating out and enjoying restaurant-standard food – with more and more restaurant retailers offering takeaway options and even delivery options in order to meet the demand of a consumer base who want convenience and ease as much as they want good quality food.
Much of this change in the way we view finished products is down to the rise in technology and consumer reliance on the internet as a go-to, with customers consistently using map apps to find local eateries and bars, using the internet to discover new and exciting recipes and cocktail ideas, and using delivery apps like Uber Eats and Deliveroo in order to have fresh food brought straight to their door.
Top retailers in the food and drink industry
While trends play a huge part in ascertaining which food products are popular at a certain time or during a certain season, we largely find that the most popular retailers operating popular sectors of the industry remain so for the majority of the year. If you are looking for takeaway coffee and cake before or during a meeting, the primary retailers in the industry are those coffee shop chains who not only deliver affordable and high quality produce, but also create customer loyalty through the use of reward cards and seasonal deals. The likes of Costa Coffee, Starbucks, and Pret a Manger all operate thousands of coffee shop chains across single cities never mind the entire country; fulfilling a demand that they have played a massive part in creating in the first place, by enticing customers in with the promise of a quick coffee and a delicious cake.
Supermarkets and grocery stores of course hold a large part of the food and drink industry in their power, with varying customer options now giving them access to new and improved ways of ordering, paying for and receiving delivery of their food and drink items. However, the ingredients sector of the food and drink industry is not merely served by supermarkets and grocery stores – with specialist stores across many areas of the industry giving consumers an opportunity to spend a little more money for higher quality produce which has often been sourced more sustainably and locally. Some examples include butcher shops, bakeries, patisseries and specialist food stores; all of which operate somewhere between supermarkets and take away food outlets, but which are all tied to the same regulations and standards as those retailers operating on a nationwide level.
And then we have the food and drink retailers and service providers which rely as much on customer experience as they do on the quality of the food and the variety of drinks on offer, whether it be a pub with a good menu and relaxing atmosphere, a high end restaurant promising locally sourced delicacies, or an authentic Italian which not only serves good pizza and pasta but also create experience in the setting and décor of the restaurant as well as the service. The point is that the food and drink industry is now so vast, with so many choices on offer, that having a unique selling point is crucial as brands and retailers hope to make a name for themselves in an otherwise saturated market.
Trends in the food and drink industry
There are a great many trends which play their own part across every area of the food and drink industry, however one of the leading trends which links with the rise of technology is the influence of review sites and online testimonials – with a prime example being TripAdvisor. Giving visitors and consumers an opportunity to review everything from a restaurant to a fast food joint, a shop and even a local street food van, TripAdvisor is often regarded as both a blessing or a curse – putting food and drink industry outlets on the map, but also putting the power of their success in the hands of consumers who, more often than not, only comment when they have something to moan about. We often find that restaurants and eateries who have appeared negatively on these sites can redeem themselves with discounts, promised voucher codes and witty comeback, however this side of the internet shows how technology can not always be a brand or retailers’ best friend.
Another overwhelmingly influential trend in the food and drink industry, and one which has served as the most prominent agent of change since the conception of retail in its very early days, is the way in which consumers shop and the way that they allow their morals and outside influences to impact the way that they shop. For the food and drink industry in particular, one of the biggest changes that this has led to is the way that products are packaged – both in supermarkets, takeaways and fast food outlets. Plastic has now been given devil status by the likes of climate change experts and personalities such as David Attenborough, all of whom use relatable anecdotes and cute animal visuals in order to show us exactly what impact plastic packaging is having on the world’s oceans and environment. Thus, the food and drink industry has had to change – moving away from plastic bags and plastic straws, and instead pooling all its focus into finding new and eco-friendly ways of supporting the customer experience and ensuring that they are seen to be a friend of the planet.
The rise in dietary requirements and lifestyle diets is another trend which has become a big driving force in the food and drink sector, opening up entire new marketplaces for up and coming brands to make their name through vegan substitute ingredients, plant-based ready meals, and healthy snacks on-the-go. The fact is, as consumers we are becoming more and more obsessed with and in tune with our health, with tons of global shows and documentaries really driving home the importance of a balanced diet. And so, the way that we are approaching and looking for takeaways and fast food options is changing rather than dwindling. As consumers, the demand for fast food is still there – it simply needs to conform to being healthy and nutritionally balanced. That is why the number of food joints and eateries which revolve around plant-based products, vegetables and healthy meal plans is on the rise – and is also one of the reasons why vegetable boxes and online meal preparation kits are becoming so popular with modern day buyers. Add to this the fact that most new brands are providing and advertising deals and discount for first time buyers, and it comes as no surprise that consumer habits are constantly changing in line with the best prices and the best new brands, offering wholesome but delicious food which is both convenient and easy to prepare and eat.