July 18, 2023

Top Food & Beverage Trends of 2023 (and the Logistical Challenges They Bring)

Welcome to the exciting world of the food and beverage industry, where trends are constantly shifting and consumer demands are ever-evolving — as are the challenges they bring to those in the industry. From the rise of diverse product expectations to the growing importance of sustainability and the game-changing role of technology, this industry is experiencing a whirlwind of change that is transforming the way we produce, distribute, and consume our favorite food and drinks. So grab a snack, sit back, and let's dive in!

Greater expectations for diversity

The food and beverage industry is no stranger to shifting trends, but today's customers are craving greater diversity in their food and beverage options than ever before, driving the industry to meet their evolving demands. As the shelves fill up with exciting new choices, these diverse demands presents logistical challenges for the supply chain. Finding the right ingredients, coordinating with multiple suppliers, and managing an increasingly complex supplier network requires careful coordination. As the industry strives to keep up with customer expectations, the need for effective supply chain management becomes even more crucial.

Some of the most notable consumer trends in the food and beverage industry include:

  • Increased non-alcoholic beverage demand: Raise your glass of sparkling water, because non-alcoholic beverages are gaining popularity! Driven largely by health-conscious Gen-Z consumers, one of the key areas of diversification is evident in the increased demand for alcohol-free alternatives to traditional cocktails and beer options. Valued at $22 billion in 2022, the market for non-alcoholic beer alone has risen by over 80% in the last decade, with the ready-to-drink (RTD) mocktails market expected to hit $9.43 billion by 2028. That's a lot of fizz! As this trend grows, companies face logistical challenges in ensuring these beverages stay cool and refreshing. From sourcing quality ingredients to finding the perfect packaging, the supply chain needs to adapt to meet the growing demand for alcohol-free bubbles. [Explore more 2023 trends in the full article: Brewing up Success in a Booming Beer Market]
  • Meat substitutes becoming even more popular among non-vegetarians: It’s no longer just vegetarians who are driving demand for plant-based meat alternatives these days. More and more consumers are hopping on the plant-based bandwagon, driven by concerns for their health, the environment, and animal welfare. Valued at $4.3 billion in 2018, the global meat substitutes market is projected to reach a sizzling $8.15 billion by 2026. This popularity surge creates delicious challenges for the supply chain. Think about it: making sure plant-based ingredients are readily available, preventing cross-contamination, and perfecting the storage and distribution of these mouthwatering alternatives. It's a whole new ballgame for many in the industry, and it could pay off big for the winners.
  • Meal kits still on the rise and feeding customer appetite for novel and imported ingredients: Meal kits have revolutionized the way we approach cooking and have become a gateway to exciting new ingredients. Expected to reach a tantalizing $19.92 billion by 2027, the meal kit market has millions of subscribers eagerly anticipating their weekly delivery. But here's the challenge: ensuring these kits arrive fresh, coordinating with multiple suppliers to source these unique ingredients, and managing the waste that comes along with packaging. What’s more, this experience has translated into heightened expectations when customers visit grocery stores as well. They now seek out those same unique ingredients they've discovered through meal kits, creating a demand that retailers must meet. Grocery stores are increasingly expanding their offerings to cater to these adventurous palates, ensuring shelves are stocked with an array of exotic spices, specialty produce, and imported delicacies. Meal kits have not only transformed the way we cook, but have also fueled a desire for new culinary experiences — ultimately shaping the entire food retail landscape.

Now, picture yourself as a supply chain manager with a whole bunch of new products to juggle. Sounds exciting, right? Well, it is, but where trends like these often come and go, it’s normally expected that new options will take the place of at least some of the old — and that isn’t happening here. 

With these trends, introducing new stock-keeping units (SKUs) from entirely new suppliers means building relationships from scratch, coordinating logistics with multiple parties, and making sure everything flows smoothly, all while continuing to maintain existing networks. Balancing the tried-and-true traditional offerings while adding fresh and diverse options to meet these changing expectations requires careful coordination and more than a bit of logistical magic.

An increased focus on sustainability

In recent years, sustainability has become a key priority in the food and beverage industry as consumers demand more environmentally responsible practices. People are increasingly aware of the impact their food choices have on the planet and are seeking products that align with their values. This shift in consumer mindset has sparked a movement towards sustainability throughout the entire supply chain.

Some of the areas customers care about most include:

  • The shift towards regional agricultural structures: Consumers now prefer locally sourced food, as it reduces the carbon footprint associated with long-distance transportation. By supporting regional agriculture, businesses can strengthen local economies, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and ensure fresher produce for consumers. For example, many restaurants and grocery stores have embraced the farm-to-table concept, forging direct relationships with nearby farmers to source fresh, seasonal ingredients. This not only supports local farmers but also provides customers with a transparent and sustainable food experience.
  • Responsible packaging and the avoidance of single-use plastics: The excessive use of single-use plastics has raised concerns about waste and pollution. To address this issue, many food and beverage companies are adopting sustainable packaging solutions, exploring alternatives such as biodegradable materials, compostable packaging, and innovative designs that minimize waste. All of these options bring new and constantly shifting needs to a business’s supply chain, and as your business expands and changes, a TMS like Shipwell’s can scale to accommodate your evolving needs. This includes managing the transportation of new types of goods, adding new carriers or transportation modes, and adapting to changes in market conditions or customer requirements. With the right tools, companies are able to significantly reduce their environmental impact and appeal to environmentally conscious consumers, and Shipwell delivers.
  • Reducing food waste and increasing social responsibility: According to the United Nations, if global food waste were measured as a country, it would be the world’s third worst emitter of greenhouse gasses, behind only the US and China. This wastage not only squanders valuable resources but also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. To combat this issue, many businesses are implementing strategies to minimize food waste throughout the supply chain. This includes optimizing inventory management, improving production planning, repurposing or donating excess food, and preventing spoilage during shipment. In fact, one large meal-kit company using Shipwell’s technology saw a 75% ROI in the first year, due largely to the decrease in spoilage and loss of goods sold that they saw through the platform. 

While this heightened focus on sustainability brings about numerous environmental and social benefits, it also presents unique challenges in supply chain management. Coordinating with multiple suppliers to ensure adherence to sustainability standards, implementing efficient waste management systems, and consistently sourcing sustainable ingredients are ongoing hurdles. Striking a balance between sustainability goals, cost-efficiency, and profitability requires careful planning, investment in technology, and collaboration across the supply chain.

A technological revolution

In the face of evolving consumer demands and complex supply chains, the food and beverage industry is turning to technology as a game-changer. From streamlining operations to enhancing efficiency, technological solutions are paving the way for a more agile and responsive industry.

Some of the most prominent tech trends in Food and Beverage include:

  • Increased capabilities in transportation management systems (TMS): These systems utilize advanced software and data analytics to optimize transportation operations, improve route planning, and enhance overall supply chain visibility. With a TMS in place, companies can better track shipments, monitor delivery performance, and reduce transportation costs. For example, companies leveraging the Shipwell TMS have been able to identify consolidation and routing optimization opportunities to reduce costs by as much as 40%, as well as see a reduction of over 10,000 pounds of carbon emissions from a single batch of shipments. 
  • Leveraging AI for superior forecasting and management: By analyzing vast amounts of historical data and market trends, AI algorithms can generate accurate predictions about consumer demand, enabling companies to optimize their inventory levels and minimize waste. This technology can also assist in helping businesses to prevent disruptions in their supply chains through AI-enhanced exception management. Available through Shipwell’s Compass Dashboard, ensuring that a complex network of shipments remains on track is simplified. By leveraging AI and machine learning capabilities to continuously monitor orders and shipments, it is able to proactively identify potential issues, and provide a method for correcting them — all on one screen.
  • Establishing partnerships and fostering collaboration: Through digital platforms and cloud-based solutions, companies can easily connect and communicate with suppliers, distributors, and retailers to better manage any added complexity. For instance, with Shipwell's strategic integration marketplace, shippers are able to enjoy all the benefits of established partnerships for streamlined financial management, advanced risk management, enhanced carrier options, simplified logistics processes, and improved visibility. This seamless collaboration allows for real-time information sharing and communication, ensuring everyone involved is on the same page — all while cutting hours from your day and dollars from your expenses. 

These are just a few examples of how technology is revolutionizing the food and beverage industry. Companies are also exploring automation and robotics in manufacturing processes, data analytics for supply chain optimization, and cloud-based platforms for seamless collaboration and information sharing. Embracing these technological advancements enables businesses to meet changing consumer expectations, enhance operational efficiency, reduce costs, and improve overall customer satisfaction.

As the industry continues to evolve, the right balance of technology, innovation, and human expertise will be essential for success. By leveraging the power of technology, food and beverage companies can navigate the complexities of the modern supply chain and remain competitive in a rapidly changing marketplace. However, choosing the right technology solutions and implementing them effectively is key, and the wrong choice can easily leave you with a recipe gone wrong. 

Will you be able to keep up?

In the ever-changing world of food and beverages, staying ahead of the game requires a blend of innovation, adaptability, and the right technology solutions. We've explored the exciting trends shaping the industry, from diverse product expectations to sustainability concerns and the role of technology. But now, the big question remains: Will your business be able to keep up?

The answer lies in finding the right technology to meet your business needs. 

Finding the perfect technology fit for your business is crucial. It's like choosing the right utensil for the recipe, and shippers must weigh multiple factors such as scalability, customization options, ease of use, and customer support. By selecting a technology solution that aligns with your specific needs and requirements, you can ensure a smoother transition, improved operational efficiency, and long-term success.

Whether it's embracing diverse product options, prioritizing sustainability, or leveraging technology to drive innovation, the food and beverage industry presents both challenges and opportunities. But by staying adaptable and embracing the right technology solutions, you can keep up with consumer expectations, enhance collaboration, and build a resilient supply chain.

To help transportation managers navigate this complex decision-making process, we've created a comprehensive checklist to determine exactly what you need to succeed. From scalability and customization options to ease of use and staff training needs, this checklist covers all the ingredients to ensure that your TMS holds the recipe for your success.


What’s Next?

At Shipwell, we understand the unique challenges faced by shippers in the food and beverage industry. Already a hotbed of trends, challenges, and mouthwatering innovations — the complexity involved in meeting customer expectations is only likely to rise. 

That's why we're committed to providing top-notch transportation management solutions that consistently outperform the competition. With our advanced technology, robust features, and exceptional customer support, we offer the tools and capabilities you need to stay ahead in this fast-paced industry. But don't just take our word for it. See for yourself how Shipwell stacks up against our top competitor by viewing our detailed comparison. Click below to discover why more and more businesses trust Shipwell to navigate the complexities of the food and beverage supply chain.


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