Many of the leading trends this year in food and beverage manufacturing will have a familiar ring, but they may take some potentially surprising twists. Whatever direction the trends go, however, manufacturers that adopt a flexible approach, one that incorporates the latest tools in automation, will be well-prepared.
Perhaps the biggest trend in the sector has been the spread of plant-based meat substitutes. Everyone from grocery chains to fast-food franchises has whipped up alternatives to their traditional fare, and innovation in the field shows few signs of slowing down.
Cutting-edge brands, for example, will start to blend vegetable ingredients and real meat. The mix will satisfy consumer demands for healthier choices while addressing lingering suspicions about the taste and quality of strictly plant-based meat. And it will appeal to the growing number of “flexitarians,” people who are primarily vegetarian but incorporate limited amounts of meat in their diets.
The demand for healthy choices also is remaking the snack aisle. More and more Americans occasionally replace traditional meals with snacks, with one study putting the share at 30% of the U.S. population. Consumers have been turning to snacks that are based on fruits and vegetables but that offer the same eat-from-the-bag convenience as their salty brethren.
Health will mean more than just getting enough Vitamin C, however. Consumers have been stocking up on products that contain cannabidiol, or CBD, which is seen as a salve for a range of ailments, including anxiety and chronic pain. Other items gaining popularity include gluten-free and alternative flours. Cauliflower pizza crusts burst into the kitchen last year, but they will be joined this year by flours made from almonds, bananas, chickpeas and other novel ingredients.
Also gaining attention are ingredients known as adaptogens: herbs and roots prized for their alleged role in warding off physical, chemical and biological sources of stress. With names like ashwagandha, holy basil and ginseng, they can be taken separately as supplements or mixed into dishes and drinks, including tea, coffee and smoothies.
As these consumer trends shift ever more quickly, manufacturers are likely to seek greater automation. Done right, robotic technology allows manufacturers to switch without hesitation among a diverse menu of packages and products, while ensuring food safety. And so-called cobots – robots programmed to work alongside people – are increasingly adaptable, reducing workplace accidents. Advanced technology also can reduce labor costs, improve traceability of products, and reinforce the supply chain at a time when it is under stress due to global events.
But even though robotics technology is growing more sophisticated, it is coming down in cost due to increasing production from leading suppliers in the field. That makes for a speedier return on investment.
The benefits are not just financial. Automation can align with consumer preferences for brands with a sustainable mission. Automated processes reduce waste and energy usage, which are points of value to eco-conscious customers who are attuned to the realities of the modern economy.
K2 Kinetics takes a collaborative approach to design, installation, and technical support, ensuring each system is based on a clear understanding of the customer’s unique appetite. That is why we invite you to talk with one of our experts at firstname.lastname@example.org!