Date: 16th February 2016
Venue: Guildhall, London
2016 City Food Lecture
The Lord Mayor opened proceedings at this year’s City Food Lecture by asserting, in his introductory address, that the event has become an important fixture in the City’s annual calendar and one not to be missed.
From the packed nature of the wonderfully historic Guildhall, with members of the seven sponsoring food related Livery Companies – the Bakers, the Butchers, The Cooks, the Fishmongers, the Fruiterers, the Poulters and of course ourselves the Farmers – their guests; the sponsors and their guests; plus an impressive list of principal guests, including luminaries from organisations across the entire food chain, this opinion is widely shared.
The event was wonderfully well choreographed by the organising committee and went off like clockwork. The 400 delegates were seated in good time to greet the principal guests, who once again this year included HRH The Princess Royal, Past Master of both our own Company and the Butchers Company.
In the 15 years that this event has been running we have been honoured to welcome a wide range of excellent speakers from companies and organisation as diverse as PepsiCo and the Food Standards Agency, Unilever and the Soil Association. Each of them providing their own, thought provoking perspective on the Food Industry, its challenges, it triumphs and failures and perhaps most importantly to the gathered audience, its future.
Surely none of these previous speakers can have been better qualified to provide an insight into the future as this year’s lecturer, Christophe Jouan. Christophe is the Chief Executive of the Future Foundation – currently the leading independent global trends consultancy.
The presentation Christophe gave was at its heart a consideration of what the ‘Food Future’ might look like, based on an analysis of global, societal trends. His key theme being that these macro societal trends filter through into the food buying preferences, behaviours and buying habits of consumers – and these in turn determine the winners and the losers in the battle for the consumer’s attention, loyalty and wallet.
He identified four key trends that he suggested were most likely to shape the future of food consumption in the period between now and 2025. These trends, which he titled, The Death of Risk, The Cult of Immediacy, The Society of Sobriety and The Desire for Control were, he believed, the key drivers for choice. And, he opined, the trends we needed to take into account as we seek to understand and predict the trajectory of the rapidly changing, food consumption market.
He went on to identify a series of key outcomes that the Future Foundation is predicting as a consequence of the interplay between these four key drivers.
1) The rise of the Flexitarians – those consumers who, in a world where meat consumption is becoming more and more contentious, choose a path of 'meat consumption moderation' rather than shunning meat altogether or continuing to eat meat without any restraint. This group of diet moderators currently make up some 70% of the population. And the growth in this segment is likely to lead to a decline in meat consumption. Although not necessarily a decline in the overall value of the meat market.
2) An increase in Offsetting - where bye consumers, increasingly risk averse and concerned about healthy living, choose to indulge some of the time but ‘offset’ this indulgence with much more controlled eating the rest of the time.
3) Food Plus - the creation, marketing and consumption of foods that claim to be far more than just fuel. He gave some fascinating examples such as Beauty Dust – an ingredient, which when added to otherwise standard drinks, claims to enhance skin tone, hydration and appearance and a truly wonderful sounding beer called Problem Solver, that is packaged with advice on how best to use it to create the perfect Creative Thinking state of mind! Well worth a try if you can get hold of some I suggest.
4) The Race to Convenience – not the convenience of the junk food past but healthier, home consumption convenience that still allows the consumer to feel they are 'in control' and able to meet their own healthier living goals.
Following the lecture Margaret Mountford, instantly recognisable to many in the audience from her time on the BBC’s The Apprentice, chaired a panel session that featured food writer and advisor Lyndon Gee; Professor Chris Elliot, founder of the Institute for Global Food Security at the University of Belfast and Judith Batchelar, Director of Brand at Sainsbury’s.
Questions from the floor were wide ranging, with several notable questions from Liverymen of the Worshipful Company of Farmers. The responses from the panel were varied, interesting and above all, thought provoking. The summing up by HRH The Princess Royal, that followed the Q and A session, was as sharp and insightful as we have come to expect.
Following the conclusion of the formal part of the evening guests enjoyed a reception in the Old Library where debate and discussion could be overheard in every corner and behind every pillar.
The purpose of the City Food Lecture - to encourage conversation, debate and consideration of all aspects of the process of getting food from the field to the fork - had once again been well and truly fulfilled and it left all of us who were lucky enough to attend with a great deal to think about in the weeks and months ahead.