Lusk outlines 7 potential trends in agrifood industry

The COVID-19 pandemic has spurred those along all stages of the agrifood supply chain to rethink how business is done.

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Jayson Lusk (Roy Graber)
Jayson Lusk (Roy Graber)

The COVID-19 pandemic has spurred those along all stages of the agrifood supply chain to rethink how business is done.

Speaking on September 28 during the Delmarva Poultry Industry (DPI) 55th National Meeting on Poultry Health, Processing, and Live Production, Jayson Lusk, distinguished professor and head of the Purdue University Department of Agricultural Economics, shared seven trends that might be expected going forward. Lusk, in his presentation, added that these possible trends are based on “sheer speculation.”

1. Accelerated e-grocery shopping

Lusk said that while online grocery shopping was already growing more common, “COVID put us entirely on a new path that we’re likely to continue.”

Lusk said once the barrier is broken and a shopper makes an online grocery purchase for the first time, “it’s just easier to do that again.”

2. More micro-fulfillment centers

Lusk anticipates that a lot more food will bypass the grocery store on its way to the consumer. Several companies have already started what he refers to “micro-fulfillment centers.” In such a sitation, when consumers place a delivery order, the order does not come from a grocery store, but rather what he calls a “mini warehouse.”

3. Grocery stores focusing more on fresh products

If the trend of micro-fulfillment centers takes off, traditional grocery stores may have to adjust their offerings, and Lusk believes those stores will place more emphasis on fresh food items.

4. More automation

Food processors are likely to increase the amount of automation they have in their plants, said Lusk.

“This COVID situation will have incentivized automation, because our risks have been greatest where there have been more people,” he said.

5. Additional scrutiny of possible anti-competitive behavior

There has been a lot of discussions that accuse many of the top poultry and meat companies of anti-competitive behavior, even resulting in lawsuits. Increased scrutiny and claims over concentration and anti-competitive behaviors can be expected, he said.

6. More ‘ghost kitchens’

Lusk said a trend of more “ghost kitchens,” which are restaurants without dining areas to sit in, could be coming, with these businesses focusing on delivery-type operations.

7. Rising interest in local, direct farm delivery

There has been a growing interest in food purchases via local, direct farm delivery. Lusk said while this type of commerce will remain a small part of the overall agrifood industry, the interest levels among consumers is increasing.

View our continuing coverage of the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic.

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