Food for thought: Trends affecting the food and beverage industry in 2024

Sustainability specialist Jonathon Hanks, who is co-founder and managing director of Incite explores anticipated trends that will affect members of the Food and Beverage Growth Coalition, led by the City of Cape Town and convened by the EDP.


Consumer behaviour

The current market scenario will see many consumers facing financial constraints opting for cheaper, less nutritious food options. We can expect to see a shift towards more affordable alternatives rather than healthier choices, impacting the industry’s product preferences.

Leadership challenges

The complex interplay between economic constraints and sustainability concerns will require transformative leadership, which remains a gap.

The food and beverage industry has a significant impact on health and climate change, yet boards and executives are still struggling to fully grasp the potential opportunities and risks associated with sustainability. Public health concerns, especially regarding non-communicable diseases, will be increasingly seen as the industry’s responsibility.

Environmental impact and sustainability

Extreme weather conditions and infrastructure challenges like ports, energy and water availability directly will continue to affect operations and supply chains.

Recognising the industry’s role as a significant emitter of global emissions is crucial. Key challenges will include ensuring access to nutritious food, addressing rising inequality, and managing waste effectively.

Embracing circular economy principles and extending producer responsibility could drive innovation. However, the trade-offs between cost-effectiveness and sustainability are a critical concern.

Regulatory considerations

Regulations on sugar, sodium reduction, and packaging will continue to create challenges for businesses. If embraced, these regulations could enhance consumer health but come with short-term economic impacts. Some companies use delay tactics due to anticipated job losses.

Global shifts in sustainability reporting standards and climate-focused standards will significantly influence the industry. There will also be increasing demands for disclosure on living wages.

Supply Chain and Local Production

South Africa’s reliance on global supply chains leaves us highly vulnerable to disruptions. Localising production as a solution to mitigate these risks will be hindered by challenges in engaging smaller-scale farmers and addressing social issues within the supply chain.

Innovation and Technology

AI’s potential role in understanding consumer patterns is a transformative opportunity.

Leveraging AI could aid with:

  • Consumer insights: Advanced data analytics can offer insights into consumer preferences, allowing companies to tailor products and marketing strategies more effectively.
  • Efficient operations: AI-driven technologies can optimize supply chain management, forecasting, and inventory control, enhancing operational efficiency.
  • Sustainability solutions: AI applications can contribute to waste reduction, resource optimization, and sustainable production practices, aligning with evolving regulatory demands and consumer preferences.

About the Food and Beverage Growth Coalition: The City of Cape Town’s cross-sectoral Growth Coalitions, launched in 2022, enable partnerships between the City and private sector across different industries. The EDP convenes the Food and Beverage Sector Growth Coalition Platform promotes structured engagements with the food and beverage industry to promote skills development, job creation and sector development.