Mar 31, 2020

Think Fast

Rapid adoption of consumer trends challenges the industry to innovate

“Because the world is changing very fast.” That was the motto of one of my former employers, and it was quite appropriate for the times. Social media had taken over and news could suddenly travel at lightning speed in a 140-character tweet. The publishing industry was transforming rapidly, and audiences wanted media at their fingertips on new mobile platforms instead of on paper. We worked fast to keep up with their demands.

I was reminded of that slogan recently at the National Grain and Feed Association’s 124th Annual Conference in Austin, TX. Stephen Nicholson, senior analyst - grains & oilseeds for Rabobank, gave a presentation on the future of the grain industry as shaped by consumers, African Swine Fever and geopolitics.

He highlighted one of the fastest moving consumer trends to hit the grain and feed industries recently — plant-based meat. Sure, “veggie burgers” have been offered for decades as an alternative, but they never seemed to take hold with the general public until now.

Today, plant-based eating is a mainstream movement. U.S. sales of meat alternatives grew 30% in 2018 and retail sales of plant-based foods hit $4.5 billion in 2019, according to data from the Good Food Institute and the Plant Based Foods Association.

When Burger King’s Impossible Whopper hit the fast food world last summer, it wet American consumers’ appetite for the new meat and since then the segment’s growth has been exponential. I have never seen a grocery store item go from almost nonexistent to taking up a whole refrigerator case in a matter of months like it did with plant-based beef and chicken at my local supermarket.

While this trend, which many argue is here to stay, might severely cut feed usage, Nichols saw it as a growth opportunity for innovative alternate uses of grain. For example, using soybean oil in bio-chemicals and packaging products or biofuels for airplanes and other vessels.

As we enter an era of slowing growth and demand for grains and oilseeds, businesses will have to change, adapt and implement new technologies to remain competitive. But if there’s anything those in the grain and feed industries can rely on it’s change. Now more than ever, it’s imperative to stay proactive and ahead of the trends because these times are changing very fast. ■

Elise Schafer

Sponsored Items

Recently Added to Buyer's Guide

Manufactured Canoe Liner

  • Durable urethane molded around rugged steel plate to absorb impact and abrasion
  • Protective plate integrated directly into urethane liner

Utility Monitor

  • Plant-wide utility consumption analysis helps identify anomalies
  • Gain real-time analytics and monitoring


  • First-of-its-kind quantitative LFD
  • Rapid and reliable solution for detecting predominant allergen, safety and grain process ability concerns


  • Enables commercial grain facilities to monitor bins to protect quality of stored grain
  • Digital cable technology checks grain temperature and moisture, automatically activating fans to help prevent out-of-condition issues

Silver-Sweet QL Series Bucket Elevators

  • Convey bulk materials vertically
  • 400 to 11,925 bushel/hour capacities

TUBO Push Conveyor

  • Now with 8-inch tube for higher capacity throughput, up to 43 tons/hour
  • System transports products gently over distances from 165 to 230 feet in all directions


Marketwatch: Mar, 29

US Corn Price Idx: ZCPAUS.CM

open: 6.5192
high: 6.5567
low: 6.5038
close: 6.5313

US Soybean Price Idx: ZSPAUS.CM

open: 14.1991
high: 14.3893
low: 14.1566
close: 14.3578

US Hard Red Winter Wheat Price Idx: KEPAUS.CM

open: 8.2902
high: 8.3652
low: 8.2527
close: 8.3587

US Soft Red Winter Wheat Price Idx: ZWPAUS.CM

open: 6.4098
high: 6.4923
low: 6.3998
close: 6.4423