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Jeff Grog

Founder & Managing Partner JPG


Innovation is finding its way into the food and beverage space this year in unique ways, largely focused on solving important problems in the world and the lives of its consumers. Looking to 2020 and beyond, we see innovation continuing in 4 key areas.


A craving for customization

Consumer interest in customized solutions will continue to drive the evolution of products at a flavor, ingredient and cause level. Consumers continue to look for quality products that support causes they believe in, while also allowing them to explore flavors and ingredients that meet their needs and preferences. This demand for customization has fueled the rise of startups like Mod Pizza and Brassica, which are finding success in offering customized options for consumers interested in exploring flavors and ingredients. We believe we’ll continue to see startups with unique ideas, flavors and concepts like these thrive.

As consumers also continue to explore personalized diet concepts, opportunities to innovate will grow. Companies will continue to look for unique ingredients to create great tasting products that align with keto, paleo, gluten-free or low-glycemic diets. We are seeing companies utilize ingredients like protein-rich collagen and low-glycemic sweeteners like allulose to create unique offerings. As this trend continues, delivering novel products will be key in differentiating in the marketplace. Nurturing these groundbreaking ideas and helping startups scale and thrive is also essential.


Focusing in on flavors

When it comes to meeting consumer demand for experiencing new flavors—particularly deeply authentic one —companies can’t afford to stand still. We are seeing the breadth and depth of consumer interest in sampling new flavors only increase. This includes global cuisines, particularly those that are chef-inspired and bring deeply authentic, often very regional, tastes to a consumer base that enjoys new experiences. We believe we’ll continue to see these chef-inspired innovations drive consumer interest.

As consumer curiosity continues, it’s essential to stay connected to trends and flavors that excite and interest them. This connection will be the lifeblood of companies that thrive—doing the work to explore new restaurants, travel, work with ingredient suppliers and connect with those in the industry at incubators like The Hatchery. We know consumers are open to food and flavor exploration more than ever, particularly when dietary and cause-driven, so an essential question to remaining relevant is, “What’s the next problem to be solved for consumers?”


Connecting with cause-driven consumers

As climate change drives consumer interest in sustainability, demand for healthier, more sustainable products will continue. This new level of consumer consciousness around lowering their environmental impact means not only an interest in items that taste good, but in knowing they are doing good by consuming them. Consumers look for sustainable packaging and love the stories behind those who produce their food and drink options.

This growing interest in sustainability is driving companies to look for more efficient protein options, which means a continued explosion of interest in plant-based protein. As consumer preferences shift, plant-based meat alternatives will continue to be a focus of innovation. In fact, a UBS report predicts the plant-based market will grow from $4.6 billion in 2018 to $85 billion by 2030. We believe this estimate could be conservative if innovation and consumer awareness continue to drive more consumption. This will drive a continued interest in pioneering new and unique sources of protein as we look to meet the demand for more efficient protein options.


Plant protein production

As the world’s population grows, a key question we’re all asking is, “How are we going to supply protein?” Finding sustainable and innovative ways to produce protein remains a focus. This means leveraging ingredients—like watermelon seed, pumpkin, peas, chickpeas and numerous others—to use their unique flavors, textures and qualities to create plant-based products analogous to familiar meat-based items that consumers love. Finding new protein sources and improving flavors, textures and processing to create better products will be important. Consumers continue to respond to improved plant-based products, which means continued demand.

Success in creating plant-based alternatives to burgers, chicken, and sausages has led to further interest in developing new products—from plant-based fish to researching ways to create meat from cultivated animal cells. More than $16 billion has been invested in U.S. plant-based and cell-based meat companies in the past decade, with $13 billion of it in 2017 and 2018, according to The Good Food Institute. These investments will fuel innovation to help alleviate demand on the environment and offer more efficient ways to produce protein the world needs and wants. As new applications are developed, we’ll also see more recipe and flavor exploration as well as new and novel products that differentiate themselves in the marketplace and are tailored to appeal to a growing cause-driven consumer market.


An eye for innovation

While we certainly can make predictions regarding the food and beverage industry this year, it’s essential to keep a keen eye on the horizon for trends and innovations. Remaining connected to Chicago’s rich history of food and flavor innovation as well as its tremendous opportunities for synergy, resources and meaningful connections with one another can only help continue this legacy. Exposing ourselves to new environments, conversations and perspectives will enrich the work we all do and cultivate the possibility of pioneering new and novel ideas.


About JPG – Whether your goal is to launch an innovative food brand or add a new revenue stream to your powerhouse CPG portfolio, JPG’s integrated end-to-end food business approach delivers go-to-market success. We believe that your final food product must work all the way through production, branding, promotion, sales, distribution and the full P&L – not just on a lab bench. Contact JPG: jpgresources.com.

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