Defne Saral, SVP & Head of Sales EMENA at ofi shares what will be driving success this year – and it is collaboration! Here are five key ways ofi sees this taking shape in 2024.

 Recipe for innovation: Artificial intelligence + insights

As businesses and governments worldwide grapple with the opportunities and risks of artificial intelligence, what will it mean for the food industry? We believe AI can play a role in supercharging our efforts to create products that surprise and delight consumers.  

That means keeping pace with the ever-evolving world of consumer preferences is critical to growth, and ofi’s consumer insights capabilities remain central to creating exciting product development opportunities for our customers. For example, we’re exploring how AI tools can complement the real-world expertise of our innovation teams. 

Our recent AI-supported study predicted a greater fusion of Eastern and Western flavours in confectionery, bakery, beverages, and snacks.

The new-founded partnership: Plant-based & dairy

Plant-based has been a focus area of 2023, and we expect consumer demand to remain robust. But with a twist – ofi’s proprietary consumer researchrevealed that two thirds (67%) of EMENA consumers see plant-based dairy as complementary to dairy products, and ‘an opportunity to try something new’ (65%). 

This evolving consumer mindset of seeing plant-based as complementary to dairy opens up a new approach for the food ingredients industry – it’s no longer a zero-sum game between dairy and plant-based.

Turning decarbonization insight into action

2024 will be another important year for our industry to accelerate the collaborative effort to tackle climate change. Addressing this challenge will rely on sharing and transferring data on emissions and reduction plans.

That’s why ofi developed its Carbon Scenario Planner (CSP), built into its sustainability management system AtSource, a tool that won the prestigious Sustainability Innovation Award for the second consecutive year at FiE.

The CSP allows ofi to model the outcome of different decarbonization interventions tailored to local contexts, so it can work with our customers to plan and cost climate actions. It helps customers tackle the complex and challenging issue of scope 3 emissions which occur in a company’s value chain and make up the bulk of the food and beverage industry’s carbon footprint. With this degree of data sharing and transparency, together, we can plan and cost climate actions for maximum impact.

Regulation to support deforestation progress

New EU deforestation regulation (EUDR) obligations coming into effect at the end of 2024 will help to create a level playing field and strengthen the industry’s efforts to tackle issues ranging from deforestation to carbon emissions. But its success hinges on all the stakeholders working together, from the private sector to national governments and farmer organizations. We hope that creating a clear baseline for compliance will also help stimulate more innovation in monitoring issues and encourage all industry players to go further to address deforestation.

ofi is well positioned for these changes, especially given our long-term focus on reducing deforestation in cocoa and coffee smallholder supply chains through promoting agroforestry and advancing sustainability programs. Sharing our learnings and helping our customers go further and faster in their own efforts to tackle deforestation is central to our plans for 2024.

Purpose 2.0

Purpose has long been a watchword for many food ingredients businesses. Deloitte data[1] from 2023 shows that purpose-driven companies have outperformed the market thanks to increasing consumer demand for transparency from the brands they choose. 

But with some activist investors questioning the role of purpose in company performance and increasing consumer scrutiny about the impact claims of food brands, the industry is unpacking purpose with a fresh perspective. Does purpose need to be at the front of brand marketing? What role does it play in brand differentiation? Or should it be focused on how companies operate at an enterprise level? 

For ofi, our purpose to be the change for good food and a healthy future sits at the heart of our business operations. Whether it’s using data to help coffee farmers improve sustainability in Guatemala or using natural spices and nuts to create vegan plant based ice creams at our new Customer Solutions Center in Amsterdam, ofi team members are doing incredible things, working with natural ingredients to ‘make it real’.

Yet purpose is an ever-evolving concept and the needs and expectations of our stakeholders change – as the industry explores its purpose for the future, the key is conversation and collaboration to ensure we stay on track to deliver value for our customers, communities and the planet.

And a final thought on the importance of collaboration

At ofi, we’ve continued to leverage the scale and expertise from our global footprint to expand our capabilities and use our extensive network in origin countries to drive impact on the ground, collaborating with our customers to develop and implement sustainable supply chain practices and to deliver sustainability impacts. As a trusted supplier to our customers, we’ve also been able to provide support in challenging circumstances, underpinned by our surety of supply. 

With further challenges ahead – both industry related and from wider economic developments – our power comes in continuing to work together to create better outcomes for the whole sector.  

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