I recently did a talk for Grupo Nutresa’s 2nd marketing conference in Medellin, Colombia. Grupo Nutresa is one of Latin America’s main distributors of food serving 65 countries with 70 different brands. In Colombia I spoke to 300 professionals in sales and marketing, helping them unpack our youngest generation, Centennials – or Generation Z.
On the one hand, we have the peculiar attributes of Latin America, its changing culture, demography and economic situation. Secondly, the disruption happening to the food industry in general is intriguing. Viewed individually or together, these two topics should obsess anybody interested in what the future of food might look like.
The Latin American market is particularly interesting with respect to Centennials. Not only is the younger generation flourishing in this region in a time when the ratio of young to old is diminishing in other parts of the world. Centennials in this region – apart from being large – is also quickly disrupting the digital landscape. Latin America is not only the fastest adopter of mobile phones, it also comprises the most avid users of social media. When you consider the size of this region and that Centennials represents 25% of it, the production, distribution and marketing of food is no longer business as usual.
The uncertainty facing the food industry – not only in this region, but virtually everywhere else – renders a situation rife with unprecedented challenges, but also opportunities. Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG), the industry that deals with procurement of everyday goods, is in a unique position to pick up new macroeconomic and consumer trends. With responsiveness to a demand for goods that everybody needs, the food industry can more quickly see where the wind is blowing if they look for the right signals. The pervasive use digital payment histories and access to rich consumer data gives the industry great access to analytics insights.
Moreover, narrow profit margins forces hyper-vigiliant alertness to shifting market trends. In the U.S. we recently learned that high-end organic grocer par excellence, Whole Foods, merged with Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer. The consequences will be felt not only by consumers and shareholders, but for competitors as well. The best strategy for CPG business leaders will be to pay close attention to early changes in demographic and psychographic behaviors and attitudes, and to apply strategic foresight to envision opportunities not yet exploited.