Adaptive Appetites

sector - food & drink
type - trends
As inflation and supply chain fragility sends food and drink prices soaring, consumers and companies are adapting rapidly – embracing frugality, innovation and indulgence to navigate this uncertain landscape.

The cost of living crisis across Europe and the US is powering a level of adaptation and acceleration in the food and drink sector in a similar way to how the 2020 pandemic and its associated lockdown measures ushered in new waves of unprecedented digital acceleration. In the face of soaring inflation and fragile supply chains, food and drink businesses are now adapting to new technologies – from biotech to new kinds of solar sustenance – while consumers themselves are re-evaluating priorities as budgets shrink, and food and drink become more precious and costly to consume.

Against this backdrop, adaptation has become the order of the day, as economy, resources and tastes themselves contract and force us to think, act and execute solutions differently. ‘There’s no silver bullet that solves all the problems,’ says Jo Barnard, founder of London-based design agency Morrama, which has developed sustainable packaging solutions for food brands including Wagamama and Mimica. ‘If there was, everyone would be doing the same thing and they’re not.’

Indeed, sustainability remains a high priority for consumers even as UK household incomes shrink by 7% and recession looms in the US, Germany, and France. According to Kantar’s Sustainability Sector Index 2022, 65% of global consumers across 32 countries still want to shop in a way that’s better for the environment, but cost prevents them from doing so – all of which means that brands, while adapting shouldn’t look to cut corners when it comes to helping the consumer save money, and save the environment.

Published by:

4 January 2023

Author: Savannah Scott and Matt Poile

Image: Landless Food by Malu Lücking, Embassy of Food, Dutch Design Week, The Netherlands


The Symbols of War by Nadia Iachini showcases the damage of conflict areas on the environment through a graphic language, The Netherlands; Ecovado by Central Saint Martins graduate Arina Shokouhi with food scientist Jack Wallman, UK

As The Future Laboratory’s co-founder Martin Raymond puts it: ‘Food and drink brands need to disrupt by extracting cost through the use of alternative materials, substitute foodstuffs, smarter data supply chain capture – but crucially by co-partnering with consumers themselves in how they can adapt and change their tastes to accommodate hitherto unknown grains, ingredients, drink types that may be unfamiliar, or on face value, unpalatable.’

Fragile Supplies 

While much of the food crisis that has emerged revolves around logistics, in 2023 it will become one of supply, as economic and geopolitical factors massively disrupt production. Globally, an estimated 345m people’s lives are in immediate danger from acute food insecurity, while 828m people go to bed hungry, according to the World Food Programme. This is a crisis that ‘requires a comprehensive and well-coordinated approach to ensure complementarity and maximum efficiency in resource use,’ says the IMF.

With the Russian invasion of Ukraine – the world’s fifth largest exporter of wheat – disrupting annual sowing cycles, Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky warned on Twitter that 2023’s harvest could be halved.

‘The future of food production hinges on delivering new tools and technologies to farmers that solve problems for their operations and support a more sustainable agricultural system.’
Sam Eathington, executive vice-president, chief technology and digital officer, Corteva Agriscience

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