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Emerging trends and technologies in the food and beverage industry.

Consumer insights +1

December 7, 2023

PSi recently talked to a Consumer Insights team at a multinational food and drink conglomerate famous for its innovations. They asked us how PSi can be used to bring innovation to this sector and what insights it can get that could not be obtained using traditional methods. We decided to ask the people who consume their products to talk about the food trends and innovations they were most excited about.

We host a PSi discussion with 200 consumers on the emerging trends and technologies in the food and beverage industry. This case study delves into the unique insights gained from this discussion, showcasing PSi's capability to analyse live conversations at a massive scale.


We engaged 293 people, representing a diverse range of views and insights. Participants answered several questions about their food consumption and consumer habits. They were then asked to tell us about what they thought were the emerging trends and technologies in the food and beverage industry. People were then invited to take part in a live discussion on the PSi platform.

We facilitated a live discussion among 148 participants (with an additional 54 joining later) about the question: “What are the emerging trends and technologies in the food and beverage industry?” Participants reached a collective verdict in just 30 minutes, but thanks to PSi’s massively parallel design and efficiency, we collected almost 15 hours of live conversations between consumers. Not bad.

What did people discuss? Conversations were automatically transcribed and analysed using natural language processing, producing actionable insights in minutes. No need for swarms of facilitators and stacks of Post-it notes.

Here are some of the key insights.

Key Insights and Trends

Sustainable Practices and Affordability

A major trend identified was the emphasis on sustainable practices, particularly in packaging and biodegradable materials. However, people discussed the concern over balancing sustainability with affordability, highlighting the trade-off existing between these two needs. Sustainability often comes at the expense of affordability. This insight emerged only thanks to the dialectic nature of the discussion, as people who championed sustainability had to defend their positions against people who preferred affordability. These nuances are harder to capture using traditional survey methods but come naturally when people talk to each other and exchange experiences and preferences.

Local and Organic Food Production

The group frequently returned to the idea of local and organic food production, highlighting the potential for reducing carbon footprints and supporting local farms. This trend points towards a growing consumer awareness of food sourcing and its environmental impact.

According to consumers, significant food innovation will focus on products that are natural and sustainable as people become more aware of the environmental impact that the products they buy have on their health, the planet and their local communities.

Several people discussed the health implications of ultra-processed food, sugar additives and portion sizes. Tackling these issues can help meet consumer demands and expectations while curbing costs, e.g. by reducing portion sizes or by reducing transportation costs and sourcing produce locally.

People love chocolate, but they also are worried about the environmental impact of chocolate. So by reducing carbon use and energy use throughout the manufacturing and transportation chain, um, and then offsetting any carbon that is used, people can feel that they can eat chocolate without feeling guilty.

Anonymous participant

Green Initiatives and Energy Efficiency

Renewable energy sources in food production and processing were discussed extensively. This trend indicates a shift towards cost reduction and environmental responsibility in operational strategies. These initiatives, when properly run and communicated, can not only have an impact on the environment, but significantly improve brand value. Furthermore, they can help a company achieve greater ESG goals, which can attract investment and increase market share.

Recycling and Waste Reduction

A strong focus was placed on recycling efforts and waste reduction in the industry, underlining the role of consumer education and corporate responsibility in sustainable consumption. Several consumers observed that multinational food conglomerates, like Nestle and General Mills, can start working on being more green and reducing waste. Food packaging waste is, according to these consumers, one of the main sources of litter, both in the household and in the streets. Investing in efficient recycling plans and removal technologies can dramatically reduce waste and significantly improve people's quality of life.

Innovation in Packaging

The group highlighted the importance of developing smart packaging solutions that enhance food safety, traceability, and shelf life while being sustainable. Cardboard, paper and other plant-based materials can help food appeal to consumers by signalling health, eco-friendliness and brand values.

Sustainable packaging has become a very emerging trend in the food and beverage industry. You find that you can use cardboard packaging or reusable containers, and for beverages, you can use glass bottles instead of plastic ones. And then also have, like, reusable containers that you can still use for other purposes.

Anonymous participant

The road ahead

For food industry conglomerates, these insights emphasise the importance of investing in sustainability and innovation. The unique finding of balancing sustainability with affordability, uncovered using PSi's voice platform, offers a new perspective for industry strategies. Companies should prioritise developing sustainable packaging, localising food production, and implementing green initiatives. Importantly, they must balance these initiatives with cost considerations to ensure that sustainable practices are accessible and feasible for all consumers. Companies proactive in adopting innovations will benefit from a first-mover advantage, leading to cost savings in the long run. Conversely, delaying innovation could result in a scenario where companies are compelled to adapt not out of foresight but necessity as they strive to catch up with industry-wide advancements and higher consumer expectations.

Qualitative research at a quantitative scale

Let’s return to our original motivation to conduct this study and try to answer our Consumer Insights team's question: What did we gain from using PSi that we could not have gained elsewhere?

PSi gave us an unparalleled ability to facilitate and analyse large-scale, complex discussions. Instant conversational analysis gained us deeper and more nuanced insights than traditional surveys and greater scalability than traditional focus groups.


Participants remained highly engaged throughout the discussion as they could listen and share their stories. Surveys have huge attrition (response rates typically vary from 5% to 10%). Surveys are simple to fill in but not very engaging. Consumers often lack motivation, time or attention. This poses the risk of over-surveying your consumers, which can backfire and hurt your brand perception. 

Qualitative insights

Surveys do not provide good qualitative insights. Let’s admit it: when it comes to the open text box in a survey, we all go through the following mental steps: 

  1. Avoidance. If we have the choice, we’ll try our best to avoid filling the free response text box.

  2. Randomness. If we have to fill it and the stakes are low, we will input random characters (‘--’ if you are a practical person, “$)(%%@&” if you are the whimsical type)

  3. Convenience. If we have to fill it and the stakes are high, we will give the most concise answer possible.

Social effects

Surveys do not take into account the fact that consumers’ opinions about brands and products are socially shaped. Consumers' opinions about a particular brand combine their personal perception and experience with that brand and social information derived from ads and word of mouth. Listening to consumers talking to other consumers about your product or brand gives you a much more nuanced perspective than asking those same consumers to express that opinion on a Likert scale.


"Now, wait." You might ask. "What is the difference with a good ol’ classic focus group?" Conducting a focus group with 200 people would take months of preparation, days to run, and a flock of group facilitators to moderate the discussion. And once the data is collected, it will take as much time to analyse it. This level of logistical savviness is not an option for most businesses, and it is costly and inefficient for large ones. 

PSi's technology is not just a tool for gathering data; it's a gateway to understanding the evolving landscape of consumer preferences and industry trends, making it an indispensable asset for any forward-thinking company in the food and beverage sector.

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