Predicting the wants and needs of the chicken consumer of 2035 [PODCAST]

Christophe Pelletier, global food and agriculture futurist, strategist and advisor, The Food Futurist, shares his insights to help the chicken industry plan for the future consumer of 2035.

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Predicting The Wants And Needs Of The Chicken Consumer Of 2035

As we look to the future, it’s crucial to understand what younger generations will prioritize when it comes to food. By the year 2035, Generation Z will be the primary purchasers of chicken, and changing attitudes about technology, concerns about sustainability and animal welfare, and other factors will impact how chicken is fed, raised and processed over the next decade.

Christophe Pelletier, global food and agriculture futurist, strategist and advisor, The Food Futurist and keynote presentation for the upcoming Chicken Marketing Summit, shares his insights into what the consumers of tomorrow will be looking for to help chicken marketing, production and processing proactively plan in the quest to keep chicken as the protein in the center of the plate.

Elizabeth Doughman: Hello, I’m Liz Doughman, the editor of WATT PoultryUSA and Poultry Future.

In today’s episode, my guest is Christophe Pelletier, global food and agriculture futurist, strategist and advisor at The Food Futurist. Pelletier is also the keynote speaker at the upcoming Chicken Marketing Summit, scheduled for July 29-31 at the Renaissance Birmingham Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa in Birmingham, Alabama.

This one-of-a-kind event will look forward to the consumer of 2035 and the issues that will impact their protein choices.

Registration is now open, with early bird savings available until May 31. For more information, go to

Thanks for joining me today, Christophe.

To begin, what exactly is a food futurist?

Christophe Pelletier: This is something I've been doing for 15 years. I started in May 2009.

My goal is to bring a comprehensive view of things to come and how the future is going to shape up. What are the challenges coming our way? What are the opportunities? What are the things that have a future? Which are the ones that don't have a future? What are going to change?

I look at it from many different angles. I look at from the demographic point of view, from geopolitics, from economy, but also from human behavior. Alot of things happen because of human behavior, and a lot of things don't happen because of human behavior.

In the food sector, we are really that crossroads also with the human behavior because, let's face it, a lot of people’s choices in food are not based on very rational aspects. I don't think are many people who compose a meal based on how many calories, how many grams of protein, how many grams of fat, etc. because certain foods remind them of certain experiences and so on.

There is a lot of psychology in food. I really think it's very important if you want to look how things can can evolve in the future to also look at those psychological aspects.

So, my view and my approach is really comprehensive. I like to take my clients in my little helicopter, and we go high for a 360⁰ view of things. Then we go back down slowly – we zoom in on the specific activities of my clients – and see how that big picture already is going to influence them down the road.

And, of course, it depends on what timelines they have, but what I try to have is predictions. And I've made many predictions, not so much because I like to do predictions. I don't have a pointy hat. I don't have magic wand or a crystal ball.

I always look at the future from an angle of what is likely, but also what is desirable, and try to find a good compromise between the two because what's desirable very often is what does not exist. Let's try to imagine how it could be what's likely because of that human behavior I was talking about. Humans are actually rather predictable, so we can try to figure out what are the most likely events that can happen. Of course, there are always lots of events that don't happen, but I refocus on predictions that are substantiated by a number of parameters.

In the end, what I deliver depends on what my clients ask for me. If they have a specific topic, I'm not going to bring the same generalities all the time because it would take probably half a year to tell it all. I've also written two books about the subject so there's a lot of predictions in there too.

I really focus on the practical aspects for my clients and what is important for them. Because, let's face it, they want to know about the future because they're going to have to make some decisions, whether it’s an investment or certain strategical decisions. So, let’s be practical and talk about the reality of their business, not just generalities.

Doughman: Why is it important to start thinking about the consumer of tomorrow right now?

Pelletier: The sooner you start thinking about something and start working on something, the more chances you have to succeed because you don't have the time pressure. There is nothing worse than deciding at the last minute and, no pun intended, but you will be like a chicken with head and you’re going to make rash decisions which are probably not the best.

I think it's never too soon to start thinking about it. It doesn't mean you have to make the decisions right away. You can just let it sink in when it comes to the future. You have to think does it make sense? What doesn’t make sense?

You can’t make decisions right away on your own. You have to discuss with other people and you have to test it with business partners and stakeholders. The sooner you start that conversation, the better. People love to talk about the future.

Also, when there is plenty of time, vested interests don’t play as big of a role so you can have a much more objective and productive conversation.

Doughman: What do you think are some of the biggest ways consumer trends will change in the next decade?

Pelletier: I think there are certain drivers that are already here and they're going to stay for at least the next decade.

One is the environment. I think environmental issues are going to play on for a while and possibly get worse. I think it's going to create a lot of anxiety. And when there is anxiety, people want to have more safety, but they also want to have answers and they want to have the feeling that something is being done because they feel vulnerable.

The other topic, for the same kind of reasons, is health. There are plenty of issues about health when it comes to food and the amount of food related diseases, diabetes, overweight, cardiovascular diseases and so on. I think that's going to play more and more in the future. I would not be surprised if we see people going back more to basics and that. With that, I mean old-fashioned nutrition.

One topic I see also with health is gut health. Because when people look more into nutrition, they're going to realize that nutrition is not just how many calories, how much protein, how much fat and so on, but it is also how is food absorbed into the intestine? What is the bacteriological flora inside your intestine? I think that's going to become a topic more and more. It's starting, but it's going to go further.

Another aspect of health I think we're going to talk more about is mental health. I don't know if it's because the screens have replaced parents, but I think there are lots of people that are living with trauma. We see that with polarization for all sorts of causes and especially with the younger generations. I think all of that is going to affect how people look at the world, how they look at their life and how they look at the relationship with others.

Food is going to play a role in this. Some people think that food can affect your mental health. Is it going to be a cure? Is it going to be to prevent or is it going to be just to make you feel good? I think the topic is going to come up more and more.

Also, what I think is going to happen more and more in the future is that values are going to take center stage in a lot of decisions for consumers. It’s not going to be so much about the physical attributes of a product – that still will play a role – but it's the values of the producer and the people.

What we see is that people are getting more radical in a way. If a producer claims to have certain values, then people want to buy from them if they share the same values. If for whatever reason, they have the feeling that the producer does not live up to those values, then the reaction is rather drastic. They just drop you right away.

I think that's going to play a role. For the future, that's going to influence the way that producers are going to act because you're going to have to be true to your values, otherwise there's going to be a price to pay. It's going to be more and more difficult to try to tell little lies. You're going to have a lot of integrity and to be true to your values, or if you change your values, you’ll have to explain why and try to convince people to still follow you. That's going to play a very important role, probably more even than the generational aspect.

Doughman: How do you think these changes will impact the future of chicken production and processing?

Pelletier: When it comes to things, I was talking about like the environment and values, it's going to be about farming systems. We've seen that already. It's not new. People are questioning more and more about how animals are farmed and the aspects of animal welfare – the way you treat animals, what you put in the fields of animals, what is the environmental impact of animal farming?

That's going to be an increasingly important topic. Suppliers are going to have to make sure that they do the right thing when it comes to the way you communicate with consumers. Not only in what is your message, but also in how you carry that message to consumers.

Instead of projecting ourselves 10 years ahead, what if we look 10 years ago? There were already not as many tools as we have now. That was just the very beginning of what we're doing here, being on a video conference. I suspect that things are going to change.

I expect we’ll have something like a 3D type of communication tools that is immersive. One example is that artificial intelligence generated a Spanish influencer. It's not a person. It's just a thing making something like 10,000 euros a month. a lot of money. It’s not a person. It doesn’t exist. And it replaces actual influences that will cost money. It’s going to be interesting how we deal with this blurring line between reality and virtual reality. On the topic of mental health, maybe there will be some bad effects.

I think all those tools are going to evolve. Technology evolves very fast, so who knows how far it's going to go? Maybe in the future, you will feel like visiting the supermarket, but it will be a virtual visit with a helmet on and you’ll feel like you’re walking in the aisles. And then, who knows, maybe the products will speak to you suddenly, like “hey Christophe! Do you want chicken tonight?”

Doughman: What is your favorite chicken dish?

Pelletier: I like to cook, so I cook lots of things and chicken is definitely one of our favorites. I don't know if I really have a favorite one because, let's face it, one of the advantages of chicken is that it's very versatile. You can make a huge diversity of meals. Sometimes we’re going to make something Italian, sometimes tandoori, sometimes Mexican or Chinese or you name it.

What we like and what my wife, likes a lot, is roasted chicken which is may old fashioned but it's great. We have leftovers. We can use that for sandwiches. We can make other dishes with the leftovers. We have lots of recipes.

I think that diversity is what makes it fun. We're not always eating the same thing.

One of the advantages about chicken is that it really takes the flavoring well. It's very natural and not all the meat can do that.

It’s very convenient and very versatile. If you want a change, you just change one ingredient and then it’s like you’re eating something completely different.

Doughman: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Pelletier: What I would like to add, I think is about the Chicken Marketing Summit. I think you have a fantastic list of topics and a great lineup of speakers. I've been looking them up a little bit online to try to figure out who they are, what they do and what they speak about. You have such a broad range of topics, and it's going to go in depth. I really think it's going to be a very, very good conference.

For people out there, if you're in the chicken industry, go to Birmingham.

Doughman: Thank you for speaking with me today. I hope that listeners will join us at the upcoming Chicken Marketing Summit, scheduled for July 29-31 at the Renaissance Birmingham Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa in Birmingham, Alabama.

Registration is now open, with early bird savings available until May 31.

For more information, go to

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