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Staple Foods As Hero Products Find New Footing In A Challenged F&B Industry

In the current landscape of escalating financial pressures fostered by a turbulent economic climate, the allure of staple foods has been making an impressive comeback. Beyond their conventional role as reliable ways to fill bellies and provide basic nutrition, staples such as grains, pulses, and rice are now experiencing renewed attention thanks to the affordability and longevity they can offer along with this sustenance – factors that are increasingly appealing in a world grappling with rising costs and unpredictable supply chain challenges.

As global economic challenges persist, consumers are increasingly seeking cost-effective options that offer nourishment without breaking the bank. Higher inflation rates have led to a decrease in overall purchasing power – not to mention consumer confidence – while supply shortages of some of these products, aggravated by climate challenges, have been keenly felt in the countries that depend on them the most. Among these challenges, the scarcity and shortage of supply around coarse rice from India – the world’s second largest rice producer – during this past year wreaked havoc on the global industry, inevitably leading to price hikes on the road ahead. Wheat, too, has suffered in recent times due to pressures from weather woes to wars, affecting everything from the trade of baked goods, breakfast cereals, and pasta to noodles and more, along with costs of adjacent products including animal feed, bolstered by agricultural input costs that have also been on the rise. Meanwhile, in an effort to relieve some of these pressures, some governments across the world are trying to fight record inflation by cutting deals to reduce the prices on staple foods and leave them exempt from customs duties. Others meanwhile are increasing these restrictions, forcing local suppliers and traders to explore new and inventive ways to source these essential goods.

Staple foods: forever a hero product

Yet these shortages only serve to underscore the critical importance of staples even more than ever before. Their scarcity and the ensuing impact on consumers and the industry has truly emphasised the indispensability of these foods. Despite price hikes, demand for these staple heroes has persisted. Armed with new and growing awareness of health and nutrition, and hoping to avoid ultra-processed items, more and more consumers have been turning to ancestral foods – including traditional staples such as grains – citing their wholesomeness, “real-ness”, and nutritional benefits (even deeming some to be superfoods) as benefits. And even as consumers start to cut back on “unnecessary” food spending elsewhere, staples remain a priority. Historically, hard times have often led to a greater scrutiny of value and when it comes to these items, the logic is no different: even when staples are more expensive, they still offer more bang for your buck, not least thanks to their longer shelf-life, their ability to fulfill a major part of our daily energy and nutritional needs, and the fact that they can still suit the widest variety of people’s choices, from consumers of various different cultural backgrounds to those following plant-based to dairy-free diets. As consumers increasingly choose brands that support their shifting preferences, be that for vegan diets, sustainability-friendly foods, or those with ethical and transparent practices, staple foods still hold enormous appeal.

From challenges comes fresh innovation

Throughout history, times of great challenge have historically led to times of great innovation – and this time is no different. People working in the food trade across the world are getting creative with new ways to source, buy, and sell these essential ingredients, while people all across the supply chain are working on ways to combat the current challenges. From using technology and AI to help combat shortages through the reduction of labour needs and improving growing methods, and finding new ways to embrace sustainability and face down climate issues as an imperative part of their scope, the world’s F&B industry is getting creative. Some are also exploring novel avenues for new ways to source and create these foods, in the hopes that nutrient staple foods can be created in ways that are cost-effective, affordable, and easily accessible by as many people as possible. One such instance is 3D-printing, which has thus far been used mostly to produce meats and other enjoyment-focused foods such as chocolate and pizza – and could be used to great effect in aiding food security, with more R&D centered around the production of staple foods, from noodles to rice

Regardless of whether the path is found through innovation or technology, global policy and infrastrucure, or elsewhere within the supply chain, one thing is clear: the solution is to be found together, with the F&B industry’s thought leaders, innovators, manufacturers, developers, retailers, buyers, governments, and everything in between coming together as a community with a unified mission. And there’s no better place to do that than at Gulfood, the world’s largest and most trusted F&B sourcing event. The most globally-connected, influential, and impactful hub from which the world’s F&B industry comes together to do business, share knowledge and insights, and shape the future, Gulfood 2024 will address all of these issues and more. As the F&B landscape navigates uncertainties, staples stand tall as a beacon of resilience, offering affordability, nourishment, and a rich cultural heritage. More than just fundamental sustenance, they’re also a manifestation of resilience, adaptability, and innovation in an industry facing multifaceted modern challenges.

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