Each year, Dairy Foods takes a deep dive into trends (both current and emerging), as well as opportunities and challenges, within a variety of dairy-product and related segments. The result is our annual State of the Industry report, published in our November issue.

The report is a must-read for understanding the dairy industry picture — category-by-category and subcategory-by-subcategory. However, dairy processors also should be cognizant of larger trends influencing the entire U.S. food and beverage industry.

A new report from New York-based Lux Research, “The Food Company of 2050,” points to six megatrends shaping the industry and outlines what food companies must do now to survive and thrive over the next 30 years. Those megatrends are:

Food for health. People are demanding more than convenience and enjoyment from their food choices, the report notes, focusing more on increasing cognitive function, athletic performance and the overall health of both themselves and the environment. This trend is so “mega,” in fact, that Lux Research predicts almost all products sold will pivot to making health-related claims with the aim of reducing dependence on medical intervention.

Mastering the role of the microbiome. From production methods to diagnostics, mastering this realm — essentially the genetic material of all the microbes that live on and inside the human body — will be make-or-break for food companies, Lux Research says.

Increasing sustainability. Products will need to up their sustainability quotient in terms of reducing food waste, working toward decarbonization efforts and offering more sustainable packaging.

Incorporating ubiquitous sensing. This trend is gaining ground as sensors become smaller, cheaper and more capable, Lux Research says. Sensors increasingly are monitoring food quality, food safety and even consumer health — and the COVID-19 pandemic is generating renewed urgency here.

Adapting to new industry structures. Subscription and delivery options, personalization, food safety and traceability, and the incorporation of digital tools to drive faster, cheaper food innovation will be critical to the ability of major food companies to compete with their smaller, more agile competitors.

Understanding the future of consumption habits. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated some changes, Lux Research says, but others were already underway; both will fundamentally alter consumption patterns.

“Food companies will need to adjust and adapt to the six trends in order to truly thrive,” says Thomas Hayes, an analyst with Lux Research and the report’s author.

Indeed, the entire food and beverage industry is on a journey to a “new normal” that is not yet clearly defined. However, dairy processors that are willing to transform themselves as needed to meet these megatrends will be much better situated for continued success.