Kristinsson: Seafood industry must embrace technology, target millennials

Published on
September 29, 2017

There are unprecedented opportunities for the seafood sector if it is willing and able to incorporate the latest technologies and consumer values, delegates heard at the World Seafood Congress 2017 in Reykjavik, Iceland.

Disruptive technology, which is defined as something that either displaces an established technology and shakes up an industry or a groundbreaking product that creates a completely new industry, has dramatically changed the landscape for so many different sectors: think of companies like Apple and its iTunes media player that changed the way we download and use music to the detriment of CDs; how Amazon has transformed retail shopping; and how Uber and AirBnB have completely disrupted the taxi and hotel industries, respectively.

The food industry is also evolving with more and more smart companies coming on stream with some big-hitting investors, explained Holly Kristinsson, a research scientist at Matis Ltd., an Icelandic food and biotech research and development institute. 

“The big companies are learning and learning quick, she said. “They know that if they do not invest in the smaller companies that are disrupting the industry then they will fall behind. Campbell’s, Kellogg’s, Tyson Foods are all investing in companies that are changing the food industry.”

Among Tyson Foods’ and Campbell’s’ disruptive portfolio is meatless food manufacturer Beyond Meat, which also has Bill Gates’ backing. 

“It’s the first example of a product that is meatless but in the meat section of your grocery store,” said Kristinsson.

“Things are changing and they are changing fast,” she said. “Why? Well, we have some major challenges to address and to solve these issues we need new innovations, new thinking and we must work together cross-sectorally.”

Kristinsson highlighted that one of today’s biggest challenges is food waste and food security. At a consumer level, there can be up to 50 percent wastage in food, and by 2030 it is expected that we will need at least 70 percent more food 30 percent more water. 

“If we do not radically disrupt and change how we use our land, we are going to have some issues. And the seafood industry can make a real impact here,” she said. “We also have changing demographics. We are getting older. For example, in Asia the majority of the populous will be over 65 years old. That means we need to look at aging and how we are going to address preventative health, and stay healthier, and address the consumer markets. We are going to be in Industrial Revolution 4.0. We are more connected than ever before and in the future we will all rely on IOTs (internet of things), robots, smart sensors, 3D printing and so on.”

The food industry must keep all of these things in mind as it develops new products and ways to connect with the market, said Kristinsson. And she warned the seafood sector that if it’s “afraid of losing sight of the shore,” it might face some major challenges and find itself “caught off-guard” before too long.

Millennials are the generation to look toward because they are the most connected and informed to date; they are consequently driving an USD 18 billion (EUR 15.1 billion) food revolution and underpinning the USD 9 trillion (EUR 7.6 trillion) sustainable investing market, she advised. 

“They believe in sustainability; they underpinned the sustainability of the seafood market and are two times more likely to buy a sustainable product than the average individual,” she said.

Sigurdur Olason, managing director of Icelandic processing equipment and services provider Marel Fish, also maintained that millennials have become the key target market – not least because they are now raising families of their own.

“Traditional drivers of taste, price, convenience are being replaced by new drivers like health, wellness, social impacts, transparency and experience. The question is, how do these new drivers affect seafood processing? One thing I can say is that the quality needs to be good, because millennial consumers are willing to pay a premium for good-quality products. Where its really going to change is that these millennials are really connected. They will do their shopping from home, which will really impact the value chain,” Olason said. “I think it is too early to say what will happen, but I can assure you that there is a lot of opportunities in the change and it will happen really fast.”

Contributing Editor reporting from London, UK

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