4SM is using disruptive innovation in the convenience meal category!

The global food industry is changing in ways that require even the most seasoned and skilled food manufacturers to rethink their long-term strategy (Gehlhar et al., 2009). There are a number of reasons why there is a change.
Retailers are capable of upsetting the fortunes of even the largest manufacturers with iconic brands. The power of the retailers is now placing greater pressure on manufacturer’s margins and manufacturers are looking for alternative ways to reach the customer.
As private labels grow globally, the space available for manufacturer brands dwindles. The survival of a manufacturer brand depends increasingly on being a leader. It becomes harder for new companies to get products introduced.
Direct to consumer marketing is a significant growing trend globally (Bradley, 2015). This gives manufacturers the opportunities to interact more directly with the customer base where they can gather data so they can interact better with their customers. Some notable examples are Danone selling infant milk formula on line to customers backed up with apps and support for 1st time mothers.
Convenience is still a large driving factor where European consumers are demanding more convenient products to fit into their busy lifestyles. This is noticeable in all segments of the market but most noticeable in the cities in the ABC1 segment where the growth in meal kits and restaurant home and office delivery is growing in double figures. Examples are Homefresh, Gousto and Deliveroo.
Online food sales is growing in double figure (21.1% CAGR) compared to 3.5% in traditional retail outlets (Lawson, 2013). As we get more comfortable with technology and the supply chain and distribution aspects become more user friendly, people are more willing to purchase food online.
There is currently a population shift occurring. The baby-boomers are becoming the seniors in the population. Convenience is a major driver for this group unlike the previous senior market. This is shown with a 2-3% growth in the ready meals market (chilled and frozen) over the last 5 yrs and this is expected to increase further over the next 3-5 years. Baby-boomers were brought up with ready meals and are like to follow this trend into later years and as you get older you become more dependent on ready meals.
The 50+er market has doubled in Ireland and the UK since 1996 and this is expected to double again by 2050. Currently 1 in 3 are over 50 and 67% of those (50-64) are managing at least 1 lifestyle related ailment. This sector are looking at their food to see how they can manage their illnesses (King & Bannon, 2013).
Baby-boomers are also expected through financial necessities or changes in retirement age to work longer in life. They expect their changing nutritional needs to be addressed with the convenience foods they eat. With extended working life they will want to physically shop less and will increase their use of online shopping because as you become more senior supermarkets are less ideal with the big size of the stores, and high shelving, so online shopping is more attractive.
In order to capture this growing market food companies need to think a little differently. Traditional product development was based around creating a tasty meal prototype, compromising the quality of the ingredients so it fits within a price point and marketing it to the 18-49 year olds. This innovation process does not work for 1/3 of the population over 50. Design thinking is a series of tools than can be used to help address the concerns of the market segment.

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