A Real Economy publication

2023 food and beverage industry outlook

Aug 29, 2023

Key takeaways

Consumers have retained a cost-conscious mentality despite improving economic conditions.

Technology and process improvements will provide long-run benefits but pose financial challenges.

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Businesses that invested in premium and natural products initially saw success but now feel rising cost pressures.

Food and beverage sector trend #1: The rise of AI and data-driven technology

Using AI, first party data to identify inventory trends

The food and beverage industry is grappling with economic uncertainty and persistent inflation, which have led to cost-conscious consumers seeking affordable options. While the Federal Reserve's efforts to curb inflation are making progress, food prices remain elevated. Consumers are turning to private label products and cheaper retail options like dollar stores, even those with higher incomes, to manage costs. Although nominal spending on food has increased, real spending has been declining. Big-box retailers are considering price reductions, impacting suppliers' profitability. Labor and logistics costs have risen, and retailers are resorting to increased promotions to attract frugal consumers, though this strains profit margins.

Amid these challenges, the success of food companies hinges on adapting to shifting consumer preferences and establishing efficient operations. Artificial intelligence (AI) and data-driven strategies can optimize supply chains, forecast demand accurately, and identify trends promptly. AI can also personalize customer engagement, tailoring advertising and pricing. As Gen Z becomes a significant consumer demographic, companies must prepare to leverage AI-driven insights from shared personal data. Embracing innovation is crucial, even though it entails costs, to stay competitive and navigate the demands of price-conscious consumers.

Food and beverage sector trend #2: Economic headwinds pose a challenge

Declining consumer spending amid economic uncertainty

Inflation and economic headwinds continue to shrink consumer spending, particularly in the food and beverage industry, with consumers turning to store brands to save money. Food businesses that have invested in premium and natural products have initially seen success but are now feeling the pressure of rising costs.

Increased labor costs will likely be stickier and regulatory pressure is also mounting throughout the supply chain. Large food and beverage companies are demonstrating a focus on margin rather than market share, leaving an opportunity for smaller brands to gain market share by making a margin sacrifice to play to an increasingly cost-conscious consumer.

Adapting to inflation and other economic headwinds

Food and beverage businesses are bracing for challenges like lingering inflation, geopolitical issues, and a looming recession, contrasting with the pandemic's pantry-loading days. Price elasticity understanding will be crucial for executives to safeguard market share and margins as economic slowdown approaches.

Amid improving supply chains, increased shelf competition demands middle market companies to focus on innovation, value-driven consumer behaviors, and cost-effective nutrition. Adapting to changing preferences, fostering loyalty, and leveraging technological advancements will be pivotal in navigating these complex times.

RSM contributors

  • Peter Cadigan
    Peter Cadigan
    Consumer Products Senior Analyst
  • Karen Galivan
    Consumer Products Senior Analyst
  • Thomas Hamill
    Consumer Products Senior Analyst, Senior Manager

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