Visionary entrepreneurs should take a long hard look at the Food industry. There are going to be some big changes over the next few years, and potentially lucrative opportunities.
The Food industry is going through the same sort of upheaval that the tobacco sector went through some years ago. Health campaigners and keepers of the public purse are deeply concerned about obesity; just as they once were about the effect of tobacco. But the difference between food and tobacco is that we need food. The food sector won't shrink like the tobacco sector did.
The changes to the food sector will be enormous. They are likely to start with improved labelling, but that will just be the beginning. The opportunities will come a few years down the line, when the impact of 'Junk Food Can Kill' labels has diminished and campaigners are demanding more substantial changes to food manufacture.
Of course the organic and natural food sector has been flourishing for some time. I started a wholefood restaurant in the West Country in the early 1970s; in those days we were regarded as cranks. We wouldn't be today. But whatever growth there has been in the organic, fair-trade and healthy food sector over the past ten years is nothing compared to what's likely to happen.
So how does our visionary entrepreneur take advantage of this opportunity? I don't think it's just a question of manufacturing a new brand of soft drink, yogurt, or ice cream- although there are still opportunities in those fields.
I think entrepreneurs should be talking to food technologists. After all, the forthcoming decline in junk foods will mean big changes for them and the brightest of them are already looking to the future. And if this seems like too much of a leap into the unknown, just look at the online dating industry. The guys who (amongst other things) invented the algorithms that pair people up have just been awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics.
Finding food technologists isn't hard. There are many initiatives which connect research with business. The Technology Strategy Board can effect introductions, and all universities operate Knowledge Transfer Partnerships, through which they will carry out research and development for you. But of course, like all partnerships, it's not just about connecting with knowledge; you need to know you can work with the people you are connecting with.
Entrepreneurism is about opportunity, vision and risk. There is no doubt that the opportunities are there. Vision comes, not just from having an idea, but from seeing a way to implement it. That's where the food technologists come in. As for risk- well we all do our best to minimise it; but when it pays off, it does tend to be proportionate to reward.
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