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The times they are a-changin’

Today’s consumers demand delicious, freshly prepared, healthy food choices, not only in traditional retail outlets, but in convenience stores, too.

Joyce Fassl
Joyce Fassl

Unless you have been living off the grid for the past few years, you know the food and beverage manufacturing industry continues to experience shifts. As people’s lives evolve, so do their eating habits. When the economy entered the Great Recession a decade ago, consumers hunkered down, ate out less frequently and shopped for store brands and other value items on supermarket shelves.

Today, consumers want delicious, freshly prepared, healthy choices. These meals, salads, sandwiches and snacks can be found not only in supermarkets, delis and club stores, they have made their way into convenience stores and gas stations, as well.

In fact, this month’s cover story on Manufacturing Innovator of Year, Caito Foods, is a prime example of how the fresh food market segment has grown. Founded as a fresh produce supplier, Caito Foods now provides freshly made items, such as salads, sandwiches, wraps and pizza, to retail stores within 24 hours of their production.

My email inbox has been inundated with news about upstart companies that want to conquer the fresh food arena, from home delivery of meal kits that consumers cook themselves to retail meal kits with the premeasured ingredients needed to cook ethnic food favorites. Of course, a consistent diet of fresh foods is not attainable for many time-constrained consumers. For those consumers who want the fresh taste with minimal processing, high-pressure processing holds promise. According to the Cold Pressure Council, HPP, also known as cold-pressure technology, is a method of preserving packaged food products that leads to the elimination of harmful bacteria while maintaining a higher yield of vitamins, minerals and enzymes and preserving a fresher taste. The council is working on developing a “Cold Pressure Verified” program where a third-party verification and a logo for on-pack use would be developed.

The times are certainly changing, but so is the food and beverage manufacturing industry as it continues to innovate, evolve and create products to meet consumer needs.

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