How can the food and beverages sector innovate in the face of the crisis?

The COVID-19 crisis has a tremendous impact on all market sectors. As we were preparing our regular short- and long-term plans and strategies, we didn’t realize how much disruption 2020 was about to bring. And here we are, facing the ‘the new normal’ everyone was talking about at the beginning of the crisis. It’s gaining shape. It’s truly becoming our new reality, marked by one thing common for all countries and sectors: uncertainty. How to navigate in such an environment? In fact, the solution has been around for a long time: it’s design thinking. Let’s see how it can be implemented in the food and beverages sector, one that got severely impacted by the crisis.

Disruption in food and beverages

From one day to another, things we’ve been taking for granted became challenging. Grocery shopping. Eating and drinking out. Ordering takeaways. Grabbing an easy lunch during break. While juggling many responsibilities in the confinement of our homes (work, school, household…) the way we usually ran our errands is changing. The world’s upside down, but a (wo)man’s still gotta eat, right? That’s when all eyes turned to the producers and service providers, expecting solutions. Now. Tomorrow. Yesterday. As soon as possible. Staying flexible and innovative is the only way to move forward when facing wicked problems like a pandemic. That’s where design thinking comes in.


Design thinking to the rescue

We’ve all heard the buzzword. But what does it entail exactly? Rather than a specific method, design thinking is a mindset. It’s a way of approaching problems to which there’s no ready answer. We don’t follow a clear instruction. Instead, we analyze the problem, get to know the need we’re trying to cater to and step by step, we uncover the solution. It’s a non-linear process in which we ideate and prototype, sparking ideas and improving them by continuous user testing. That’s how we eventually land on a solution.

From theory to practice

At Duke & Grace, we work in such an iterative way on a regular basis. Within our internal innovation hub Studio V, we proactively study user and customer needs that require solutions and prototype them. Here’s one of the food and beverage-dedicated prototypes we developed to battle food waste: WATTOO, a mobile app that allows you to scan products in your fridge and provides you with the right recipe. Not knowing what to make out of available ingredients belongs to the past!

This insight and solution become even more relevant in these times of pandemic and home working. Google search statistics have shown that people are more and more interested in preparing their own meals.


What do customers need from producers and retailers? A helping hand: advice, inspiration, easy service, convenience… Actions and solutions that clearly show you understand them and their needs. That you can be relevant in their lives. If these aspects also align with the evermore important values such as sustainability and a local approach, even better.


Innovate! There’s no better time than now

When it comes to the future of the food and beverage sector, there has been a lot to do about 4 macro trends: sustainability, foodism, conscious consumerism and digitalization. Do they still remain valid in the face of the crisis? Absolutely, but with new spins to them. To help you smoothly navigate these changes, we analyzed how the crisis impacted these trends and described them in our white paper.

We look into the possible future(s) of the food and beverage sector based on relevant data, insights, as well as signs of disruption triggered by the current crisis. Based on that, we ideate on possible scenarios and innovative solutions ranging from strategy, digital solutions, marketing, to branding and service design. A great starting point to open yourself to design thinking and meeting the uncertainty head on rather than merely trying to catch up.



Do you want to get more inspiration on ways to stimulate innovation in the food & beverage sector?

Ready to drive innovation? Read our report and get inspired: Be the driver of change in your sector - Food & Beverage.