While the rise of plant-based protein alternatives and growth of vegetarian and vegan diets gave the meat industry a bit of a scare this past year, meat and poultry products continue to show signs of steady growth. In an effort to continue that growth and momentum, now is the time to reevaluate whether your brand is meeting consumer expectations and needs.
To assist with this task, I have detailed five important trends in the meat industry. The common thread is that consumers and retailers are demanding access to traceable, transparent business practices. More so than ever, consumers want visibility into the food they eat, especially when it comes to meat and poultry.
- The Rise of GFSI
Since its introduction in 2000, the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) has been the gold standard in international food safety. Created by a consortium of retailers and manufacturers to improve food safety management and drive consistency across the global food market, there are now 11 GFSI benchmarked standards including SQF, BRC, IFS, FSSC, GLOBAL G.A.P., BAP and CanadaGAP. Today, more than 220,000 facilities and farms are certified worldwide.
Even though GFSI was established nearly 20 years ago, it continues to grow and make a large impact on the food industry. The standards are continuing to expand into developing areas like Latin America, Africa and parts of Asia. Where there once was little standardized regulation, GFSI has come in and established a standardized approach to delivering safe food to consumers worldwide. It’s because of this continued growth and influence that I believe GFSI continues to be a trend to watch.
- Growth of Second-Party Audit Programs
While in many ways GFSI was designed to replace second-party audits, we haven’t found that to be entirely the case. What we are seeing is that GFSI has become the expected baseline and second-party audits look beyond food safety and focus on brand protection. Tailored to each individual brand, second-party audits help ensure retailers and other customers that their suppliers are meeting specific quality standards. By ensuring products or processes comply with specific requirements, second-party audits help a global brand deliver the same consistent product around the world.
- New Food Safety Regulations
Over the last 10 years, food safety regulation has gone through a bit of a renaissance. Whether it is the institution of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) in the U.S. or the Safe Food for Canadians Act (SFCA) in Canada, we’re seeing more and more regulations being put into place to protect food safety. National regulations have global implications, so if you are a supplier in a global supply chain, it’s important to know exactly what these regulations mean.
Regulators are working more closely than ever with the food industry and many are in active dialogue with GFSI. Regulators see that the framework to ensure food safety is stronger through combined efforts. One way to stay up to date on current regulation is to work with a third-party organization like NSF International to utilize its customized consulting and training services.
- Animal Welfare
One thing the food industry is becoming more attuned with is consumer and investor expectations and the high demand for transparent animal welfare practices. It’s become imperative for organizations to define, implement and measure proper management systems for animal health, welfare, handling and care.
Earlier this year, NSF International released a new set of standards to help companies establish best practices by benchmarking against global animal welfare regulations and domestic animal welfare regulatory requirements, industry standards and codes of practice. Inspired by the Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare and consistent with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and World Organisation of Animal Health (OIE) guidelines, NSF Global Animal Wellness Standards establish clear criteria to verify robust animal wellness management systems for beef and dairy cattle, poultry (including egg-laying), small ruminants and hogs. The standards are globally applicable, as they account for variability in regulatory requirements and variations in consumer pressure.
Animal welfare is an issue that impacts the agricultural and food production industry across the globe. The negative treatment of animals can have catastrophic impact on consumer trust and a brand’s reputation. It’s important for food manufacturers to practice and demonstrate humane, ethical practices not just because it’s what consumers expect, but because it’s the right thing to do.
- New Technology
Consumers want to know the story behind the products they purchase, especially when it comes to the food they eat. They want to know what it is or contains, where it was sourced, how it was produced and whether it meets verified claims like non-GMO, Raised Without Antibiotics or NSF’s Animal Wellness Standards. New emerging technology ranging from big data, blockchain and remote monitoring to mobile apps is helping manufacturers tell their story in a more traceable and transparent way. With new technology, consumers will increasingly have the ability to trace their food throughout its entire supply chain. The wealth of information can be as much or as little as the consumer is interested in. What is important is that this information is accessible to the public through the use of new technology and tools.