Last week I attended SIAL, the international food fair, the mecca of food trends and innovation. SIAL is to food what Web Summit is to technology: a great moment for inspiration, trendspotting from all over the world and a first-hand discovery and degustation of latest food & drinks. I arrived full of enthusiasm and left feeling a bit depressed and distressed.
On arrival, I picked up a magazine with an inspiring cover “SIAL La trilogie dévoilee: Du gout, du vrai, du sens” trilogy uncovered: taste, realness and meaning. I immediately thought, great! For the past 18 months, my colleagues and I from InnateMotion, have been accompanying a major French food player to help achieve just that. A big ambitious challenge but the right one. The article was based on a research from TNS Kantar that shows that consumers are increasingly looking for high quality, transparency and responsible products. In France 91% are hoping for more transparency, 86% for less packaging and 81% for biodegradable packaging.
I then started to tour the stands, that´s when doubt started to creep.
On one hand there were some very positive developments. The fair gave very interesting outlooks on recipes and sourcing and had a strong focus on the “No Negatives”: no OGM, no added sugar or salt, no preservatives, no meat. Many businesses offered organic options with vegan following closely. I also noticed a strong increase in the use of cereals and alternative proteins.
BUT what about the carrier of these great recipes: what about the packaging? There was nothing new: plastic bottles, aluminium cans, plastic pouches. All the same old packagings as always, no real progress on limiting the environmental impact of our consumption modes.
In the hope to see the light at the end of the tunnel, I ended my tour at the FutureLab and FoodTech sections of the fair, which focuses on longer term innovations. What a disappointment. I found grilled insects, vegetables turned into chocolate bars, vegan camembert, but nothing on packaging or new consumption trends. What’s the point of selling 100% natural drink when it is in a plastic bottle? Is it really time to prioritise our own health over the health of the planet? Without a planet to live in there will be no need to be healthy.
SIAL is a good demonstration that the gap between what consumers want and what is on offer is big. By lacking empathy for what consumers and stakeholders deeply desire, and by lacking ability to turn it into actions and innovations. Only products and brands that can close those empathy gaps will truly make a difference. That’s why at InnateMotion we sometimes call ourselves empathy bridgers. And when existing businesses are not able to bridge those gaps, the opportunity is massive for a disruptive player.
Food is not just what we eat, it is how we consume. I hope that next year the SIAL will have a whole section dedicated to eco-friendly consumption modes, inspiring existing businesses into closing the gaps.
Mind the empathy gaps, it may turn into a scary hole!