This publication is Part 1 of the study "My Food - Personalisation and Nutrition", which was conducted by the DLG in cooperation with Prof. Dr. Holger Buxel (Münster University of Applied Sciences) in summer 2019. The publication series consists of three parts that illuminate the topic of personalisation in the food sector and in nutrition from different perspectives.
The DLG study focused on the question of what concrete opportunities and development prospects personalised food offers. The results of the study can be condensed into the following six key statements:
Food personalisation offers are interesting for consumers.
- Despite the often large variety of types and variants in the supermarket, the individual needs of many consumers are obviously only covered to a limited extent by the range of products on the market to date: One in three respondents (34 %) agree with the statement that there are assortment groups in packaged food for which they often have problems finding a product in the supermarket that fits well with their personal needs. One in four respondents (26 %) say that they often or very often want to buy something from a food group in the supermarket and are also faced with a larger selection of different products, but despite the selection they do not buy anything,because the products on offer do not fit their personal needs.
- Accordingly, 36 % of the consumers surveyed say that offers for personalisation of taste are of interest to them personally, compared to 28 % for personalisation of ingredients. For just under one in five, personalisation of the product quantity for food is still of personal interest (19 % of respondents), for personalisation of preparation convenience it is 12 %, for product form 10 % and finally for packaging design 7 % of respondents. Furthermore, 40 % of the respondents state that there are foods for which it is interesting for them personally to mix their own desired product from different varieties or ingredients in the supermarket.
- The interest in personalised food is also reflected in the specific purchasing behaviour of consumers.
- 40 % of the consumers surveyed have already bought a product that was manufactured according to their personal needs and preferences in terms of taste.
- The interest of consumers in more personalised products is also observed by the interviewed companies from the food industry: 76 % of companies agree with the statement that customers in their market want a range of products that are more tailored to their individual needs and preferences.
Consumer interest in personalised products exists across products.
- The consumers surveyed indicated a wide range of foods for which they would be interested in personalising the taste, the ingredients, etc.
- Consumer interest in personalised food and modular product systems therefore currently seems to be concentrated not only on a few food types or products, but to exist across many foods.
Personalisation offers in the areas of taste and ingredients are the most interesting for consumers.
- For all of the ten personalised food offers examined as examples, it is evident that these meet with interest in use among more or less large groups of respondents, with the range covering from 10 % to 41 % of respondents who can very well imagine using the respective offer in concrete terms.
- Personalisation offers that focus on modular systems or taste and ingredients seem to have a higher appeal than personalisation offers that focus on packaging design or product form. This observation also coincides with the consumer interest expressed elsewhere about what kind of personalisation offers are of interest to them and how.
Offers of personalised food are already being pursued or implemented by a notable number of companies in the food industry.
- 22 % of the surveyed companies from the food industry already offer personalised foods today, which are produced according to the personal wishes and preferences of the customers. The personalisation of products is already somewhat more widespread among companies in the food trade than in the food industry.
- In contrast, the proportion of companies surveyed that already offer modular systems today is only 7 %.
- The main reason for this is that many food manufacturers offer products that cannot be produced in such a way that it is possible to offer sensible modular systems where customers can mix their own desired product from different varieties or ingredients in the supermarket.
- A total of 12 % of the companies surveyed are currently working on (additional) future projects to offer personalised food, and 6 % on modular systems. Accordingly, it can be expected that the share of companies offering more personalised products will increase on the market
The experiences that companies have had with offering personalised food range from positive to not very positive.
Those companies that have already had experience with the offer of personalised food or modular systems mostly rate them as rather positive.
- 56 % of businesses that offer personalised food or have offered it in the past would rate their experience of offering personalised food as positive overall (of which 7 % are very positive and 49 % are somewhat positive).
- 71 % of the companies that offer modular systems today or have offered them in the past would rate their experience with the offer of modular systems as positive overall (of which 24 % very positive and 47 % rather positive).
The possibilities to offer personalised food are currently still limited in many companies in the food industry. The main barriers are limited flexibility of plants and processes and demand uncertainty.
The majority of the companies surveyed in the food industry assess their current prerequisites for offering personalised food or modular systems in a meaningful way as rather less or not good. For example, only 26% of all companies say that, all in all, they are very or rather well able to offer personalised food today. The picture is similar for modular systems: Of those companies with products that can basically bemanufactured as sensible modular systems, only 26% also state that their company is, all in all, very or rather well able to offer modular product systems today.
The implementation of personalised offers therefore still poses major challenges for many companies. When asked about the causes, the majority of the companies surveyed classified their production facilities and sales processes as not currently allowing for the meaningful production of personalised products (e.g. facilities too inflexible for small batch sizes), and also that personalisation is difficult to implement for the products in the process.
In addition to these production-related restrictions, many companies are also unclear whether there is sufficient demand and willingness to pay for personalised products or modular units. Therefore, many companies currently have doubts about the economic viability of offering personalised food and modular systems in-house.
What does the future hold?
Overall, the study results show that personalised food is interesting for consumers. How much the share of companies in the food industry that offer personalised food or modular systems will grow in the near future is difficult to estimate. On the one hand, various companies are obviously already working on personalisation projects. On the other hand, many companies do not yet seem to be in a good enough position to be able to produce and offer personalised food in an economically viable way with their existing production facilities and processes. In addition, there still seems to be uncertainty among many companies about market demand and willingness to pay for personalised food.
In this area of tension between consumer interest and market opportunities on the one hand and economic feasibility on the other, it is to be expected that dealing with the possibilities, opportunities and risks of personalising food in one's own company is a topic that will probably occupy many companies in the food industry intensively in the coming years.
This publication is intended to provide practice-relevant data and insights as a basis for this debate and discussion.