Minimalist stile red airplane changing direction and white ones

Think of all that’s going on in the culture of food that is changing and challenging your business. Here’s a sampling of insights gleaned from conversations with industry professionals and influencers:

Consumers’ understanding of what fresh, less processed entails has shifted from ingredient-specific to encompassing the whole food.

Transparent communication around not only what’s in it but also how it is made and who made it will reflect what is “fresh” by providing additional touchpoints of authenticity, credibility and experience. Manufacturers, retailers and food service will need to adapt to align with these shifting consumer values.

Personalized nutrition will continue to grow — technology will be a key enabler. Tech will drive the deeper, more customized nutrition recommendations based on individual health needs.

Food companies are becoming tech companies — and tech companies are becoming food companies.

Trader Joe’s is an example of how the retail shopping experience can still drive inspiration beyond the recipe.

There is significant demand for rapid innovation to create products that delight: new flavors, new narratives, new packaging. It’s like a constant conversation between producers and consumers. Consumers speak and the producers who are listening win their interest — and perhaps their loyalty.

These are but a snippet of insights into the current zeitgeist of food culture. As consumers continue to disrupt food culture, it is critical that companies understand how consumers are navigating modern food and beverage culture. Possibilities await.

Here’s The Hartman Group’s point of view on five factors shaping today’s food industry.

Shifting Food Values

The shifting food values of today are indicating that fresher, less processed food and beverages, which privilege the whole food, are no longer just for a certain type of affluent consumer. And the growing aspiration around increased vegetable consumption, along with a deepening interest in global cuisines, suggests there is ample opportunity for those in the food industry to join consumers on their journey of discovery while providing tools (think globally inspired sauces, new veggie formats and delicious prepped options at virtual and brick-and-mortar retailers), all the while communicating something about who you are as a brand and what you stand for. This will enable brands of today to remain relevant in the future.

The New Convenience

While it is a challenge, it’s entirely possible for larger CPG manufacturers, retailers and restaurants to adapt to consumer expectations around New Convenience. In the near term, this can be achieved by thinking about which occasions and categories are dictating shifts in consumer culture. Are there new delivery mechanisms and formats that your product or brand has permission to play in? Think about opportunities in the growing fresh and less processed breakfast space or how, long term, you might tap into the growing area of personalized nutrients in ready-to-eat or pre-prepped scratch offerings.


Personalization will continue to grow and become more specific as we learn about blood glucose levels, our microbiomes, DNA and how the foods we eat influence these biomarkers for near- and long-term health goals. How CPG manufacturers, retailers and restaurants can assist consumers is likely to come in the form of snacks, meals and beverages designed for one’s specific microbiome or DNA, similar to the DNA and meal delivery service Habit. It may take years for this type of personalization to democratize, but we anticipate more cost-effective online services and testing kits to engage consumers to biohack their way to optimal health and energy levels.


One thing for certain is that we can thank social media for a more engaged and knowledgeable consumer when it comes to the subject of food. This inspired consumer proactively seeks out authenticity in the form of global cuisines and new hacks in the kitchen by looking to real voices on social media. The takeaway here is not that we all need to “get on Pinterest or Instagram” but that we must understand what it is that is so compelling about these platforms to the modern consumer. How do we become part of the conversation with the consumer rather than the flat, transactional experiences we are historically accustomed to? Of course, it depends on your brand and category, but you know you’re headed in the right direction when flexibility, a bit of playfulness and integrity are foundational to your playbook.

Technology & Food

It should come as no surprise how connected the trend in personalization is to technology. It is very clear that to remain relevant in the food industry in the near term, ultimate transparency will be key to consumer engagement. So how will transparency enable this connection? It’s likely that blockchain, or a similar technology, will allow consumers to instantly learn about the life cycle of whatever product they may (or may not) put into their cart. In this age of delivering on consumer expectations, technology is the enabler in how well you execute your brand narrative and communicate your passion for food culture and your product’s reason to believe. Technology also enables the consumer to feel a sense of control over the products they choose and allows the producer to highlight benefits in a more nuanced and hyper-customized fashion. To the extent that technology may seem to disengage us on an organic level, it does allow us to identify and connect with our food tribe.

Ready for more?

We love to share how we can translate our knowledge into a meaningful strategic direction for your business. Contact: