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Food Supply Chains to be Revolutionized in 2016

As 2015 quietly passes into the record books and 2016 begins, we at the Food Institute are are settling back into the groove. In many ways, the first week of the year is a great time to reflect upon the past year, but it also serves as a great time to look towards the future.

Not that analysts haven’t been doing this for the last few months already. However, the first week of the year marks when those hypothetical ideas start to become reality. Robyn Metcalfe wrote an excellent piece for TechCrunch regarding the increasing desire consumers have for finding new, personalized and localized ways to fill their plates. She writes:

“Last year was a bellwether year for food systems, specifically food distribution systems. In 2016, the traditional method of delivering food from farms to tables is going to shift to include new players, more technology and shocking transparency.”

Think about it: from Chipotle’s supply chain woes to the public relations disaster for Mast Brothers Chocolate regarding the sourcing of their product to the alleged use of forced labor in the shrimp industry, the food supply chain was one of the biggest themes of the year. Both Chipotle and Mast Brothers pride themselves on their local and ethical sourcing, yet recent revelations show they had to contend with issues traditionally reserved for large industrial food companies. Namely, they needed to deal with issues regarding food safety and transparency at scale.

In 2016, it seems likely that food businesses will increasingly work to ensure that customers both know where their food comes from, but also to ensure its safety. That is no easy task, and the war will be won in the court of public opinion. Companies will need to become more creative to deliver marketing plans that showcase where their food comes from.

This increased scrutiny of the supply chain is leading to changes in all parts of the industry. New food logistics were prevalent in 2015, with third-party and grocery-backed delivery services becoming a prominent way for consumers to get their food. Traditional supermarkets are moving into the organic and specialty food spaces, disrupting current heavyweights like Whole Foods Market. And drone delivery still portends to be the biggest disruption in the food delivery chain.

Simply put, 2015 was the year the foundation was set; 2016 figures to be the year that the house is built.

What do you expect from the food supply chain in 2016?