Will e-retail disrupt the F&B industry?

FEATURED SPEAKER Fi Europe 2017 Conference
As increasing numbers of F&B retailers begin to sell their products online transparancy is key to winning over consumers. We talked to Mariëtte Abrahams, Consultant, to discover how e-retail will change consumers’ relationship with food and health and whether the personalised nutrition trend will create new consumers products.

Mariëtte Abrahams


You are joining the panel discussion on e-retail at the Future of Nutrition Summit. Increasing numbers of F&B retailers are beginning to sell their products online. What do they need to consider when marketing their products on this platform?
‘Transparency and clarity is key here. Consumers are interested in learning more about the ingredients, but also about sourcing of ingredients. If there is opportunity to educate and entertain, this should be strongly considered.’
‘Internet trends indicate that video content is more popular over written content, so retailers need to ensure that information provided is accurate, written in simple sales - free language, that can be easily understood or video content in bite-sized chunks.’
‘I would also highly recommend that nutrition experts are consulted to create content, to increase credibility and authenticity of brands. Practical advice on how to use the product can also be considered for different dietary preferences.’

How will this impact finished product manufacturers? How will product development need to change to keep up with this trend?
‘Product developers will need to be very consumer centric and ask themselves what are the questions that may come up for consumers, such as is the packing recyclable? Is it free from dangerous chemicals? How can this product be transported and stored? Will this product be used at home or at the office?’
‘If the consumer is considered from the start, this will make marketing easier because consumers will not have to think about how to integrate a product in their daily life. Make it very easy for the consumer. How can this product meet their goals and possibly how can this product be personalised?’

How has e-retail changed consumers’ purchasing decisions? Does it change the way they shop for food and drink?
‘Consumers are becoming social shoppers. They are particularly influenced by their peers, friends and family recommendations, and will make comparisons online before purchasing. This could mean comparing retailers, prices, extras, distribution and so on. E-retailers should make sure that product reviews are presented in an honest and unbiased way. It does mean that the back-end customer service should be outstanding to deal with any complaints or concerns very swiftly.’

You are also going to be talking about personalised nutrition at the Fi Conference. This is another big consumer trend–how has it evolved in recent years?
‘We definitely see a trend of hyper-personalisation. People want products that match their goals and values as close as possible. Consumers are interested in integrating tech-enabled solutions that can make their life easier, save time, educate, are fun to use and reduce the decision-making options as much as possible.’

What should the F&B industry be doing to meet this consumer demand?
‘The industry has a role to play in education, developing new brands and products that satisfy the demand for transparency and ingredients that are as healthy as possible with the least amount of unnatural additives and ingredients.’
‘The industry needs to engage more with healthcare professionals to understand the challenges consumers face in terms of accessing nutritious food that is healthy and affordable.’
‘The industry also needs to ensure to work with consultants who can guide them through the different rapid developments that are occurring in terms of technology, market, scientific and consumer trends. Personalised nutrition is rapidly going mainstream.’

As consumers take a more holistic approach to health, companies are developing technologies and gadgets to support this. What are the most exciting that you’ve come across? How is this likely to affect the nutrition industry?
‘I am slightly obsessed with the nutrition-tech space which is incredibly exciting. New products are developed by untraditional sources, which just means you never know what to expect! I am particularly interested in tech that can accurately track dietary intake that does not require logging. I like the potential of augmented and virtual reality, but I also really see gr eat potential in the concept that you can change your food order for instance based on your preference or needs. Therefore without mentioning specific brands (please come to hear my talk where I will be covering this), this is an area the food & drinks industry needs to watch to be able to ensure that their products and services form part of the decision-making process.’

What are your predictions for the industry in 5+ years’ time?
‘We will see more scientific research supporting the importance of a system approach towards nutrition and health, consumers will demand healthier products that can be personalised. We will see cheap tech solutions that can track everything non-invasively 24hrs at every contact point from home to work. Private-public partnerships that educate, improve access with a heavy focus on prevention.’

Mariëtte Abrahams will be participating in the Panel discussion ‘The impact of digital: how will e-retail change consumers’ relationship with food and health?’ during the Future of Nutrition Summit Plenary Session on Monday, 27th November 09:00–13:00.
She will also be giving a presentation on ‘The gadget revolution: how consumer health tech is impacting the F&B industry’ during the Health & Wellness session at the Fi Europe 2017 Conference on Wednesday, 29th November 10:50–14:00.