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Food Vision USA: Dissecting Opportunities and Challenges Facing the Food Industry

By: Dewey Warner

    This November, Euromonitor International contributed to the third installment of Food Vision USA, a conference held in Chicago that provides opportunities for stakeholders and observers to discuss and debate new developments, emerging technologies, future opportunities and challenges within the food space. Over the course of three days, the conference brought together food manufacturers, entrepreneurs, academics, investors, food scientists, market researchers and retailers in a variety of settings aimed at fostering collaboration and expanding industry knowledge.

    Euromonitor’s Food and Nutrition Research Associate Dewey Warner hosted a lunch roundtable discussion entitled “Free, Fair…Possible? Examining Food Policy and Trade in an Era of Uncertainty,” generating discussion about the ramifications for the food industry stemming from shifting politics and policies around US trade, the US withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the potential risks and opportunities presented by ongoing negotiations over new terms for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

    During this roundtable session, participants discussed the history of NAFTA and the profound economic, political and cultural effects that the agreement has had on the US, Mexico and Canada since its ratification in 1993. Specific to the food industry, this included discussions about the increased economic integration of these three countries and the heavy dependence upon each other for consistent imports and exports of agricultural goods and animal products that has developed as a result of the deal.

    The conversation also focused on the current US political climate. Largely stemming from the 2016 US presidential election and the unique focus by multiple presidential candidates on criticisms of international trade, participants pondered the effects these changing political dynamics could have on future prospects for new and existing trade deals. Attendees described an environment of uncertainty and anxiousness within the food industry as a result of policy unpredictability, faltering NAFTA negotiations and concerns about the potentially harmful effects on the food industry posed by raised tariffs, price and supply fluctuations and the loss of reliable export markets that could follow the collapse of NAFTA. At the same time, participants identified potential opportunities and causes for optimism within the reexamination of NAFTA, including the potential for new uniform food safety standards, clear and consistent nutritional labeling requirements and the implementation of new provisions governing the fast-growing ecommerce space, a channel not yet in existence during the agreement’s initial creation.

    In addition to the lunchtime roundtable discussions, which covered a wide array of issues relevant to the food industry, Food Vision USA featured panels and presentations from a host of industry stakeholders and experts. These featured individuals provided insight and commentary on a range of topics affecting the current and future dynamics of the industry. These topics included, but were not limited to, product innovation, clean label debates, plant-based alternative proteins, hydroponic technologies, insects as food sources, sugar reduction strategies and the future of ecommerce in the food space.

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