“Until I know this sure uncertainty, I’ll entertain the offered fallacy.” As anyone familiar with The Comedy of Errors will know, this philosophy is a recipe for confusion and chaos.
If the COVID-19 crisis has taught us anything, it is that we live in an uncertain world. Still struggling in the midst of the global pandemic, for some businesses the feel-good ending Shakespeare plotted for his most upbeat of comedies may seem out of reach. Who would have predicted a year ago that foodservice would grind to a standstill, with new delivery platforms moving into the vacuum?
If hindsight is a wonderful thing, foresight is probably better. DuPont Nutrition & Biosciences wants to strengthen its far-sighted food and beverage innovation capabilities by being able to anticipate – and prepare for – seismic shifts in the market.
“Foresight is not an easy discipline for most companies, as it is not about predicting the future, but developing hypotheses on what the future could look like and choosing the ones that makes more sense for the business. We want to get stronger in this discipline and specially now with so much uncertainty [around] the pandemic impact. This will help us to pre-empt impacts on our business but ultimately help our customers to navigate to new challenges and opportunities emerging,” Birgitte Borch, DuPont’s global marketing leader for food & beverage, explained.
To this end, DuPont unveiled a new strategic partnership for its food and beverage platform this morning. The company has established a tie-up with the Institute for the Future (IFTF), an independent research institute that specialises in identifying emerging trends and discontinuities that will transform global society and the global marketplace.
Borch told FoodNavigator she has been ‘inspired’ by IFTF’s approach to foresight. “They work with a 360 degree approach - not only considering the consumer. In our industry this is what most players concentrate around: consumer behaviour. But many other things have an impact on our business: ways of working, technology, environment, [and political factors].”
IFTF’s futurists suggest four disruptive megatrends will influence the food industry over the next decade and the non-profit’s Food Lab is made up of a multi-disciplinary team working to create ‘a more sustainable, healthy, equitable, and humane future of food’.
From the impact of AI on the way we work, to the climate crisis and developments in food tech, IFTF predicts that the face of the food industry will look very different ten years from now.
DuPont wants to prepare for this disruption.
“The pace of change is dynamic and disruptive, and without an organizing framework, businesses responses to those changes can seem chaotic and very short-termed. A longer-term view allows us to generate big ideas, stage investments, anticipate blind-spots, and better navigate uncertainties in the future,” Borch said.
Unlocking long-term strategic innovation
DuPont believes that by working with IFTF it can develop a new approach to innovation and product development.
Rather than responding to emerging consumer trends, which can be somewhat reactive, the company wants to take a long-term strategic view of product development. This, the company maintains, will support stronger food brands.
“Short-term product development strategies are common in the food industry, where consumer demands constantly change. It’s not unusual that new food and beverage launches are a knee-jerk reaction to a trend that appears out of the blue,” Borch said.
“Along with IFTF, we will be looking into trend development beyond consumer behaviours and developing strategic foresight with scenarios that impact the food industry in the short term and long term, to help them get ahead of the markets.”
Borch believes this new approach is a real game-changer for food and beverage innovation.
Collaboration and strategic partnerships
DuPont intents to use this insight to inform its innovation priorities, business strategy and investments. The ingredient supplier will also share its scenario planning with strategic customers.
“We will be sharing these insights with our strategic customers which will provide an opportunity to both confirm and refine our ideas. This will result in more robust action plans and an innovation agenda that is fully aligned with our customers and responsive to the market dynamics,” the global F&B lead told us.
Co-creation might be the word of the day – but it is nothing new to DuPont. “Our customers are already looking to us for guidance – this is an important part of our partnership and value proposition,” Borch claimed. “We believe that by bringing together our future insight, along with our deep scientific expertise, our customers will view us as an even stronger partner to their future business success.”