By: Mark Baum, Senior Vice President, Industry Relations and Chief Collaborations Officer, and David Fikes, Vice President, Communications and Consumer/Community Affairs

Emerging Issues - Yield“The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.”  So declares a pivotal character in Oscar Wilde’s book, The Picture of Dorian Gray.  While the sentiment of that statement may raise eyebrows in religious circles, it does pose a novel approach to those things we may instinctively want to resist.

Our natural impulse when confronted with change is reticence - we might even find we crave to dig our heels in and fight it.  But in an age when change is rapidly becoming the normal state of affairs, perhaps the wiser approach to the challenges that change offers is the one advocated by Mr. Wilde, name it and embrace it. Indeed, better yet to help shape it.

For the past year, FMI has been engaged in an initiative of identifying those emerging issues with the greatest potential to affect the food retail industry.  We chose to define “emerging” as meaning that aspects of the issue may already be present -but like the proverbial iceberg- the heftiest bulk of it is not yet obvious.  In other words, we may already be able to name the area of change, but the deeper implication of the challenges and opportunities it presents lies ahead.

Through our work with external research and internal focus groups, interviews, ands surveys, FMI identified five major categories of emerging issues:  the new consumerism, artificial intelligence/technology, the workforce, new marketplace, and future of food production. Each of these categories has subthemes that are far reaching.   They are also intertwined, with the implications of one area having definite consequences for the others.   For instance, you cannot talk about the values-driven aspect new consumer without bringing the influence of technology into the conversation and then fail to mention how both are driving the creation of a new marketplace.  Likewise any exploration of the new marketplace is going to quickly get into the topic of new workforce needs and the impact of new food production methods.  To help you weave through the intricacies of these areas and further explore the breadth and depth of these issues, FMI and our strategic partners at Oliver Wyman, have produced a white paper entitled: Emerging Issues; Identifying challenges to food retail.  

We believe it is easier to embrace a challenge if you see it coming, have it named (defined) and have some understanding of what its implications are.  The challenge of the changes we’ve identified will prove difficult to avoid and even more problematic to resist due to the power of their impact.  The better strategy will be to embrace them, and seek ways to make them work in your favor, converting a challenge into an advantage.