Leaders in the US food industry met this week at the Reuters Food Summit to discuss the challenges that lie ahead and to outline companies' responses to changes in the industry.
The summit, which took place in Chicago from March 6 to 9, brought together company chief executive officers and other major corporate decision makers.
With the industry facing mounting pressures from higher ingredients and energy costs, representatives from some the nation's major food firms used the summit as a platform to discuss cost cutting initiatives and strategies to increase consumer interest and boost sales.
Kraft Foods, Unilever and Sara Lee were amongst the companies that identified the need to target the nation's aging population, since consumers over 50 have more disposable income and time to spend. As well as new products aimed to appeal more to seniors, other initiatives, such as age-friendly packaging, were also mentioned.
Kraft also said it will accelerate its plans to sell more organic foods at mainstream grocery stores, and Wal-Mart also announced that it aims to be the mass-market provider of organic food, planning to double the number of organic goods it offers over the coming weeks.
Unilever said it plans to accelerate growth in the US this year, led by healthier products such as organic pasta sauces, a new range of ready meals and healthy versions of some of its existing products.
Panera Bread is also planning to expand, and expects to be able to support new store growth for the next five years, while Cadbury Schweppes will be looking at expanding market share with new chewing gum products.
The summit also looked at the increasing trend of companies entering the global market, revealing that brands must work hard to balance global consistency with local tastes and customs.
Similarly, European companies are also increasingly penetrating the US market, focusing on 'healthy' product launches in an attempt to boost sales and to respond to growing criticism that the food industry is responsible for obesity.
The summit also heard that powerful grocery chains are driving food manufacturers to provide new products for the increasingly health-conscious consumer.
Bird flu was also on the agenda, with leading companies such as Hormel Foods and Panera Bread revealing that they have marketing strategies lined up in the event of the crisis hitting the US.
And beef industry leaders also told the summit that packaged fresh meat and poultry may soon be required to label protein, fat and carbohydrate content.
For more information on the Reuters Food Summit, click here .