PSFK: What are the trends you're noticing in the food space, including emerging consumer behavior and attitudes?
Rizal Hamdallah: I’ve seen many “trends” come and go during my time in the food industry, but there have a been a few significant movements in food that have shifted consumer preferences and behaviors over the past decade, including the rise of the conscious consumer, mainstream knowledge of functional foods and meaningful sustainability.
Food companies are being held to a higher degree of transparency than ever before, and as a farmer-owned cooperative, we are always excited to share more about how our cranberries are grown—and developing foods with transparency into the ingredients we use. As consumers have also grown increasingly aware about what they eat and there are more educational resources on the health benefits of foods, functional foods have also taken a more prominent role in the American diet.
Finally, in recent years, U.S. consumers have been looking for more sustainability from food industry practices. Ocean recently committed to verify 100% of our cranberries as sustainably grown by 2020. We will be the first fruit cooperative in North America to do so, and we won’t stop there. We will be convening and encouraging other cooperatives to also use third-party verification and make sure we are all growing food in a way that allows our children’s grandchildren to enjoy it.
How are you responding to these changing consumer behaviors and attitudes?
To evolve to meet—and stay ahead of—consumer trends, we are innovating rapidly while staying true to our farmer-owned roots. We know that no matter the specific shifts in attitude, the conscious consumer will always value the impact food companies have on both their health and the planet.
Food is going to need to be health-forward and sustainability-focused, but on a massive scale. Right now, the food industry has reached a crossroads where consumers are being forced to choose between two extremes: the farmer’s market or big brand food. But at Ocean Spray, one of America’s most iconic fruit and juice companies, we are firmly taking the middle ground.
As a mid-sized farmer-owned co-op, we are reinventing ourselves from within using an internal incubator, creating flexibility within the structure of the organization and working together toward being the most health-forward fruit company on the market.
We are laser-focused on evolving into a health and wellness brand. I can reveal that we are in the process of working on new products to reflect this goal—and developing everything from oat milk to wellness shots to provide nutritious food to people worldwide.
How will these changes manifest in terms of innovation, branding and retail strategy?
In May of this year, we opened Lighthouse, Ocean Spray’s innovation hub in Boston’s Seaport district. We are also building out an incredibly talented R&D team, and strategizing a completely fresh approach for some of the brands in our portfolio.
Ocean Spray is on the path to creating something different and unexpected within the food industry. The company is able to do this because it’s actually something different than a plain old company—it’s a farmer-owned co-operative. This operations structure enables a unique approach to growth and change that is embedded in how Ocean Spray has been run since it was founded.
Because of this history, we always think about what the next generation of farming looks like, and how that impacts every part of the cranberry’s lifecycle from farms to families.
Lead image: Ocean Spray