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“50% of the products we will eat in 5 years’ time do not yet exist.” - Sophie de Reynal [Interview]

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For over 20 years Sophie de Reynal, Marketing Director at NutriMarketing, has been using her vast experience in monitoring innovations in F&B to help customers develop new products that are on-trend with market developments. What changes has she seen in her long career in food and what new developments are going to make an impact on our eating habits?

You are based in Paris. Do you serve companies outside of France as well?

“We serve small French companies working in the local market, as well as big French companies working worldwide. We also work for companies in Sweden, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, UK. For example, we work in close collaboration with the INAF Institute for nutraceuticals and nutrifunctional food and the CTAQ Food Industry Association in Quebec.”

Are there any interesting projects that you are working on now?

“We only work on interesting projects. More seriously, valorisation of food waste is something that we are working on these days. It is quite a challenge for the food industry, and it is very promising.”

“According to the European parliament, 88 million tons of food are wasted every year in Europe. That is 20% of the whole European production! 60% of this waste comes from farming, the food industry and retailers. From field to fork a lot of actors are looking for new ways to reduce this waste and one way is food waste upcycling. Making biscuits from brewery waste, using cocoa pulp to replace sugar in chocolate blocks, making straw with cane pulp… that’s very exciting!”

“We also help food companies to improve the NutriScore of their products. Our knowledge in food ingredients is very useful in this case, because we can help select the right substitute for sugar, fat or salt content according to the formulation.”

What do you see as the most challenging part of your current role?

“Well, we are a small company, so we have to be polymaths. On the one hand it is very exciting because two days are never alike. On the other hand, because of the very different kinds of projects we are involved in, you need to really stay focused to be efficient.”

What is that you enjoy the most in your job?

“The thing I really appreciate is the diversity of the projects we have. Helping companies to widen their horizons, showing them new targets, new products, new retail channel, giving them inspiration, that is really rewarding!”

In your role, you track trends and innovation in the F&B industry. How do you do that?

“Well, it is all about searching, reading different sources of information such as scientific studies found on PubMed, market studies from Euromonitor, Innova Market Insights, FMCG  Gurus, Deloitte, Nielsen, GlobalData, screening innovation at food shows, reading professional magazines, participation in conferences, webinars, connecting small pieces of information together, keeping an ear to the ground.”

“You need to be curious, willing to get involved in debates with professionals, to be open-minded.”

“I have several alerts on different media, with specific key words depending on the project I am working on. It takes up at least 1/3 of my working time.”

“We also offer our customers an innovation letter, customized to their market and their need. In these letters you can find market information, data on consumer behavior, news on retail, new products, new ingredients, new packaging and of course, scientific and regulatory updates.”

In your opinion, what are the F&B trends worth watching for in 2021 and beyond?

“It has been said that 50% of the products we will eat in 5 years do not yet exist.[1]” 

“This means that everything needs to be reinvented. It is about alternatives: plant-based alternatives, healthier alternatives, more sustainable alternatives, snackification.”

“Food needs to fit new consumers’ behaviors. Before Covid-19, people were more and more eating on-the-go. Products had to be easy to find and buy (vending machine, street-food, food truck, food service.) With the pandemic, as consumers are locked at home, products had to become more mobile (food delivery, e-commerce).”

“Consumers want the food industry to help them to eat healthier and more sustainable products because we are all aware of the emergency to save the planet and to age in good health.”

From your experience, which countries that invest in food innovation the most?

“Innovation is mainly driven by startups. Israel is one of the most innovative countries for Ag-Tech/Food-Tech with a lot of very interesting startups in cultured meat, algae, personalized nutrition (e.g. students from Israel Institute of technology have developed honey without bees). The US are also investing a lot in food innovation in general and particularly in startups such as Motif (supported by Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates) which uses AI to identify molecules in animal-based food and recreate them (same taste, texture and nutritional value) from yeast and bacteria through a fermentation process.”

Do you think that the current COVID-19 pandemic has affected how trends in the F&B sector are developing?

“Five big trends have been driving the food industry for years (Convenience, Pleasure, Health, Naturalness and Sustainability). They are here to stay. But, as with any crisis, Covid-19 has impacted them either in accelerating or slowing some aspects of these trends. The longer the crisis lasts, the greater the impact will be. For example, just like during the 2008 economic crisis, price has again become the determining purchasing factor. Value for money will drive the F&B sector.”

“Before Covid-19, new sensory experiences were driving the Pleasure trend. Now, to fight the stress and the boredom linked to the pandemic, consumers have turned to indulgent products (snacks, treats, childhood flavors), especially during lockdown. In France, in the Top 10 list of best food sellers in 2020, there were 5 products from Ferrero. The n°1 is the 1kg pot of Nutella!! So, despite the fact that, consumers are saying they are very concern about their health (first concern during the pandemic according to FMCG Gurus’ study), they have increased their purchases of indulgent products. Moreover, the crisis has emphasized the ‘local’ trend. Thus, people are buying more local products for reassurance, for the planet and to support the local economy and jobs.”

What was the biggest change that you observed taking place in the F&B industry in the past 5-10 years? Was there something that surprised you?

“I think that the biggest change in the F&B industry is the way people get their food. It is about the new retail experience, food delivery, online-shopping, dark kitchen, street food, etc. More and more people are going to outsource their food and ask professionals, chefs or others, for healthy, good, varied, seasonal, local, simple products.”

“According to a study from DigitalFood Lab[2], in New-York, Singapore or Hong-Kong, it is cheaper to have meals delivered than to rent 5m2 of kitchen space! After the era of ready-to-wear we are entering the time of the ready-to-eat.”

Connect with Sophie de Reynal on LinkedIn.

Please feel free to visit her website for more information.

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