Interview with María Mascaraque
Discover organic food consumer insights from Euromonitor, learn which hotspots for organic foods promise potential for new business, and explore what trends are expected to reshape the future of foods.
María Mascaraque works as a Senior Consultant for Euromonitor’s Food and Nutrition department in London. Euromonitor International is the world’s leading independent provider of strategic market research. By collecting data and analysing thousands of products and services, Euromonitor’s solutions help organisations reshape the future of foods and discover new opportunities on a global scale.
Hi María! As a Senior Consultant at Euromonitor, you lead a global team of analysts and conduct cross-regional trend-sharing discussions. What are the most relevant/interesting organic food and drinks industry trends your team has observed in recent years?
We have seen strong growth in the organic industry globally. If we think about foods, organic remains a small portion of the overall packaged food industry, because we are talking about retail value sales of around USD41bn in 2019. But what is interesting is that we saw the category deliver fantastic growth of around 5% in 2019. This represents the fastest growth we have seen within the Health and Wellness segment. We have identified that health-conscious consumers and environmental reasons have driven such growth. An interesting insight that came from the consumer surveys that Euromonitor runs on a yearly basis is that many consumers understand organic as more natural or even healthier for them.
The category mainly continues to evolve in Western countries. In the US in particular, which has the largest organic market, we have seen how organic is expanding in categories beyond those with more considerable penetration, like dairy, and moving into others, like soup and ready meals.
China is also a key hotspot, where safety remains the fundamental driver of the organic space. But also, we need to take into account that China follows very different dynamics to those we are seeing in the US and Western European markets. In China, per capita sales remain low. Therefore there is plenty of room for further penetration. And indeed, organic has not yet reached many categories beyond milk and baby food.
Your responsibilities also encompass global key account management. What clients in the food industry are you currently supporting? Give us examples of how they are translating your data and strategic work into actionable initiatives.
We work with major food manufacturers to support their strategies and align their portfolios to what consumers are demanding. One of the key areas where we come in is identifying the country hotspots where they should be playing. Beyond the US, which I already mentioned, we have identified other fast-growing countries that are interesting for food manufacturers to move into, such as China, France, or Canada.
We have, for instance, supported global dairy players in developing dedicated organic brands for categories with significant relevance in the organic space, like yoghurt. We have also advised retailers to develop an organic range within their private label segment to boost their brand image in terms of sustainability and animal welfare.
Turning our attention to the UK's food and drinks industry: In what ways has Brexit affected import and export between the EU and UK? What opportunities or challenges do you foresee in the upcoming months?
The UK is currently in a transition period until 31 December 2020, so in the upcoming months, the UK will still be part of the EU’s trading arrangements while a new deal is negotiated. Now, once we reach the end of the transition period, the UK will need an agreement with the EU to avoid trade barriers. I think that a deal will be achieved so that no tariffs are applied to goods. But the main challenge will arise if there is no agreement. If that is that case, tariffs will be applied, which will make UK food products more expensive in Europe.
Once there is more clarity on what trade deal is achieved, we will have more clarity on this front.
Meanwhile, the coronavirus has taken our entire industry by a storm. What impacts has it had on wholesale production and trading in Europe?
On the production front, the food industry is considered essential. Given the closure of foodservice outlets, there has been an increased demand in retail. The supply chain has suffered shifts to cope with that demand, and in some cases, it has been strengthened to manage unprecedented spikes.
Trading has also been a challenge for the food industry. In line with the COVID-19 outbreak, many European countries have closed their borders or have put controls in place. In this context, there has been disruption and therefore delays in the delivery of foods and drinks.
Describe the future of food. Where is the industry headed? What opportunities for new business do you expect will arise over the next five years?
One of the key areas that will continue to develop over the next few years is ‘plant-based’. As an increasing portion of the population follows flexitarian diets, we expect to see substantial developments in this space. Mushrooms, algae, or insects are some of the newer ingredients that might be getting more attention. I think technology is also going to play a huge role in the future of food in the next five years. ‘Lab-grown’ is one of the areas here which is developing fast. We have already seen lab-grown dairy available to the public, for example. Pricewise, it is currently not competitive, but it has the potential to develop further.
Traceability is another hot topic and blockchain is already being piloted to trace the whole supply chain as consumers increasingly demand more transparency in the food they eat.