Futurity’s Jack Bobo examines how shifting consumer trends may impact poultry production this year and in the next decade
Now more than ever before, consumer protein consumption trends are shaping how food animals are fed, raised and marketed. But what do these emerging and established behaviors mean for poultry producers? And what should be on the industry’s radar in the decade ahead to ensure it maintains — and grows — market share?
In this edition of Feed Strategy Chat, we “meat the future” with Jack Bobo, food futurist and CEO of Futurity.
Video transcript: Feed Strategy Chat with Jack Bobo, CEO, Futurity
Jackie Roembke, editor, Feed Strategy: Hi everyone, and welcome to Feed Strategy Chat. I’m your host Jackie Roembke, editor of Feed Strategy. This edition of Feed Strategy Chat is brought to you by WATT Global Media and FeedStrategy.com. FeedStrategy.com is your source for the latest news and leading edge analysis of the global animal feed industry.
Today we’re joined on Zoom by Jack Bobo, a food futurist and the CEO of Futurity, a food foresight company that explores emerging food trends and consumer behaviors. Hi, Jack, thanks for joining us today.
Jack Bobo, CEO, Futurity: Thanks for having me. Delighted to be here.
Roembke: Excellent. So let’s get right into it. Here we are at the beginning of 2021, and I’m wondering what your thoughts are regarding consumer trends that you feel poultry producers need to have on their radar this year.
Bobo: Yeah, well, there’s so many things going on. It is a challenging, but an exciting time for the industry. I think the the first trend that you know everybody has on their mind is health and wellness. And I think that, you know, that’s going to be important across the food chain, the value chain, and it’s going to impact many types of food. And so I think the the poultry industry is not immune from that. And so, as consumers are looking around for products that are going to be impactful for them, I think protein is going to continue to be important. But because we’re in 2021, and because we will continue to be in a recession in many parts of the world, consumers are going to be moving from sort of maybe the higher-cost products to a little bit more value. And I think that’s going to be a positive trend for the poultry industry.
The second trend that I think is one that, you know, continues to be important as this issue of sustainability. So on one hand, consumers are very concerned about health and wellness, but they’re also concerned about what the future of the planet is going to be. And so I think, as a trend, this is also one that benefits the poultry industry, because when you look at the environmental impact of the resources necessary to produce pound for pound for protein, poultry comes out very well on that.
Now, for both of those trends, health and wellness, and sustainability, I think we’re going to begin to see a little bit of competition, though, in those products. So, in terms of health and wellness, we’re going to begin to see alternatives to poultry in the same way that we saw Beyond Beef and Impossible Burgers. So we’re just at the beginning of those trends. But I think it’s one for people to begin to look out for. Consumers are choosing things like an Impossible Burger for health and wellness reasons — 95% percent of consumers are doing that — but of course, the reality when you dig into the nutritional facts is that those products are not necessarily better for the consumer. So we always have to distinguish between the trend of health and wellness why people are doing it, and then recognize that the reality of why a consumer makes a decision may not actually be consistent with the facts. And so that would be the second trend in terms of sustainability is something that consumers are going to continue. So value fits into that as well.
I think in terms of the third trend — it’s more of a longer-term trend — relates to animal welfare. And I think that this is something that, again, has been on the radar for a while, but issues are going to become more central to the decision-making of many consumers. Now things like, you know, cage-free eggs and other things have been there in the past. But I think consumers are going to begin to think of it also in terms of animal safety and health. And I think that follows on from COVID in 2020. And the connection between animal health and human health is something that people are beginning to be aware of, and that that’s going to influence consumers’ thinking around, you know, whether or not animals have taken antibiotics and other things, which is not necessarily an issue in the lives in the poultry issue area, but consumers aren’t necessarily aware of some of those distinctions.
Roembke: Very good. And looking ahead. Is there one mega trend you foresee impacting the poultry industry over the next decade?
Bobo: Yeah, so looking out further, I think going beyond sustainability, there’s the issue of climate change. And when you go out to the next decade, what we’re also doing is not just looking at consumers today, but consumers tomorrow. And if you look at what are the trends and things that are of importance to younger adults today, something like climate change is going to become more important.
I have a daughter who’s in her first year of college, unfortunately, doing it from her bedroom instead of the college campus, and, you know, she’s very concerned about the global environment, where we’re going and what decisions she makes today that are going to impact the planet tomorrow. And I think that’s, again, one of those where the forces suggest that, if it’s positioned correctly, poultry has an opportunity.
But I think it’s important as we think about trends to recognize that consumers don’t follow a trend, they follow lots of trends, and those trends can actually be in conflict. And so I like to point out that, in 2019, the biggest IPO of the year was Beyond Meat. But the biggest consumer trend in diets was whole foods and clean eating, which is just the opposite, because it’s all about, you know, simple ingredients, whole food products. And so I think we need to recognize that consumers can be following two global trends that are the most important trends of a year that are moving in diametrically opposed directions.
And so the poultry industry also, you know, health and wellness can cut for them, it can cut against them, sustainability can be in favor of them, it can cut against them. And so how they frame what they do, how they position themselves in the eyes of the consumer, is really important in order to determine whether or not consumers see those products as solving problems or creating problems.
Roembke: You mentioned your daughter. Can you provide some additional insights on what that next generation of animal protein consumers will be looking for from their food and food suppliers?
Bobo: Yeah, well, I think they’re really going to be driving those three trends that I talked about. You know, the younger consumer is the consumer who is the most interested in health and wellness, sustainability and animal welfare issues. And so, by looking at what they’re asking for, which is a smaller environmental impact, a better health impact for people and the planet, we can begin to understand what are going to be the trends of, you know, 2030, instead of just what’s happening today, and that’s one where the poultry industry is very well positioned, if it frames itself right. Right now, there’s a real risk in the food industry that animal agriculture is being demonized by some.
I think that the industry needs to figure out how does it communicate what it does and, more importantly, why it does the work that it does and why it’s so important to the health of people on the planet. And if they do, I think that there’s an opportunity to be seen as a solution provider instead of a problem.
Roembke: Very good. Well, thank you so much for your time today. And if you’d like to know more about Jack and his food industry insights, visit www.futurityfood.com. Thanks again, Jack, and thanks to everybody for tuning in.