When it comes to the future of the food industry, Andrew Yang believes “the sky’s the limit in terms of change.” Speaking at IFT’s recent Careers InFocus virtual event and career fair, the founder of Venture for America and former U.S. presidential candidate shared his perspective on the massive changes that are affecting the way we work and how the science of food professional can prepare for the future.
Among the factors that are shaping many industries, including food, is the increasing role of automation. “This is an incredible period of innovation in the food industry,” Yang observed, adding that the fast-food sector, in particular, is undergoing a new wave of automation affecting everything from food preparation to drive-thru options.
Other developments Yang sees as integral to a new work paradigm include consolidation in food processing and agriculture, the growth of entrepreneurship, and a shift toward remote work. Although many expected changes will bring about benefits, Yang emphasized the need to manage them in an intentional way. As an example, he cited the advent of robotics in meat packing as producing benefits from a public health perspective but also having economic implications for the workers whose jobs will be displaced. The importance of a balanced approach is essential, he believes, when ushering in new innovations.
“You all are coming into an industry that, to me, is one of the epicenters of innovation, because food is so fundamental to the human experience,” he said. “We all need to eat, we all love to eat, we all want to eat in ways that are better for us and our families, but we also want to do so in a way that, frankly, is cheaper, faster, more efficient—and now, at this point, the fewer humans that interact with the food, the better we’re going to feel about it. So that’s going to pull us in very distinct directions moving forward.
“I’m thrilled about some of the innovation I’m seeing in the foodservice industry and the agriculture sector, because it’s so necessary for us to be able to evolve and grow and to be able to provide for our people during this time,” he continued.
How can science of food professionals prepare themselves to participate in such a fast-moving future? Specialization is one of the keys. “Economywide, skills are getting rewarded based on specialization more and more,” Yang noted. “Identify what you already are good at … and keep on staying current in those skills and those fields,” he advised.