“Learn how to think like an 8-year-old,” Mike Walsh, author of FUTURETAINMENT and CEO of innovation research lab Tomorrow, said at this year’s PMA Fresh Summit in Atlanta on how to engage the next generation of consumers. Why an 8-year-old? Because anyone born after 2007 will have a completely different view of the world, he elaborated, as exposure to technology fundamentally changes us.
“The next generation of consumers, after a childhood of disruptive technology, will think about shopping, cooking, eating and fresh produce in ways very different from the rest of us,” he said. “Convergent technologies and connected lifestyles mean that everything, even food, is now a digital product.”
Technology and data will challenge our relationship to products and brands, and Walsh pointed to Instagram as one tool that has changed people’s perception of food.
“There’s a fine line between technology and anthropology,” Walsh said.
Beyond social media, there are new ways for brands and products to build relationships with consumers, but it’s going to take leaders who are able to reinvent themselves as technology evolves, Walsh said.
“Labels will be an essential part of the emerging Internet of Things,” Walsh said, citing ThinkFilm’s partnership with Diageo’s bottle labels an example. There’s a “sea change around digital interaction with food.”
On the operations side, the falling cost of drones will create new precision agriculture and flexible low-cost sensors will transform issues of food safety and transportation, according to Walsh. Also, the growing trend of crowdsourcing in creating food technology shows that it won’t just be the big companies that are capable of changing the industry moving forward.
“I believe the future is not an upgrade on the present but rather an invitation to think in an entirely new way,” Walsh said. “Don’t let the future surprise you.”
Walsh provided the following action items for industry leaders to think about in order to successfully engage the new generation of consumers.
- Ask your team whether they have tested their plans against the reality of tomorrow’s fresh produce consumers. Put some kids in a room, and ask them to describe the future of food to you.
- Set up a prize at your organization for a sustainability driven idea that could best position your organization to contribute to solving the 10BN food challenge.
- Find data that matters – data-driven leaders will tell stories, not stats. Explore how you might use real time data and visualization tools to bring your next meeting to life. How does this change your discussion and the kinds of decisions that you make?
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