Your Kitchen, A Year Older: 4 Ways Food Companies Will Evolve in 2017

Nestlé USA CEO shares what food companies need to prioritize in 2017 and how Nestlé plans to lead the way

It may not be virtual reality, but tomorrow’s kitchen will be different from today’s

Some things about food never change―it can bring people together to share a meal, satisfy cravings and nourish our bodies and souls. Other things, like the enormous popularity of gelatin salads in the 1930s, have their moment at the table and depart into culinary obscurity.

Today, we’re on the cusp of a changing food system. We’ll need to feed more people around the world than ever before. At the same time, we’re finding more personalized and customized nutrition options for unique health needs and tastes, along with addressing broadly shifting consumer preferences.

At Nestlé, both here in the U.S. and around the world, we’re on a mission to continuously improve the high quality food we serve. Our ability to innovate has kept us in business for 150 years, and will be critical as we step into our next 150 years and beyond. As we look to 2017, food companies like ours must meet diverse nutrition needs and ever-evolving consumer preferences. We’re working to reduce salt, sugar and saturated fats without sacrificing the taste or quality our consumers know and expect. Meanwhile, we’re simplifying more of our ingredients and shortening ingredient lists. We will continue to raise the bar on food safety and invest in local communities as part of our commitment to improve nutrition, health and wellness. Here are 4 ways that food companies will need to evolve, and how Nestlé is leading the way:

Simplifying Recipes with Kitchen Cupboard Ingredients

The ‘Kitchen Cupboard’ movement that we’re embracing at Nestlé is simple: we aim to use ingredients in our products that you recognize and would have in your own kitchen cupboard, like baking soda or vanilla. At the same time, each recipe must taste great and safely last a reasonable amount of time on your shelf — it’s not as easy as it sounds, but we love a good challenge and are still hard at work.

This year, our beloved Stouffer’s® brand launched the Kitchen Cupboard initiative — promising to shorten and simplify ingredients, beginning with its iconic lasagna recipe. When you look at the ingredient list for this dish and others to follow, you’ll increasingly see ingredients you might have in your kitchen, like real mozzarella, freshly made pasta, and tomatoes.

We have also moved to simplify our ice cream ingredients and to remove artificial flavors and colors from many of our confectionery brands. In 2015 Nestlé was the first major food company in the U.S. to pledge to remove artificial food colors from all chocolate candy products, which we did by the end of that year. We’ve also since removed artificial flavors from our entire line of frozen pizza and snacks. This work will continue across our portfolio and will need to continue expand across the industry to meet consumer needs and preferences.

Raising the Bar on Safety Every Step of the Way

In 2016, 78% of Americans said that they were concerned about food safety. My primary goal for Nestlé is to be the trusted leader in nutrition, health and wellness. Ensuring the safety of our foods and beverages is paramount to earning that trust.

Safe food requires a safe supply chain. Everyone has a role to play in monitoring and testing for food safety — from farmers to suppliers, from food manufacturers to packagers and distributors. Our approach to food safety sets a rigorous industry standard, testing everything from the soil that grows pumpkin seeds in a farmer’s field to the finished product and even the wrapper it’s packaged in.

We unveiled our expanded Nestle Quality Assurance Center in Ohio this year, which was designed to be one of the most advanced food safety facilities in the world. We were proud to offer a tour to CNN Money earlier this month so we could share how our quality experts are keeping our food safe.

Improving Nutrition without Sacrificing Taste

We’re all doing everything we can to stay healthy, including adapting our diet to include foods with a better nutritional profile. In the past, fads and “diet” products have come and gone, but we’ve found that many people give up on these efforts if the taste is subpar.

People don’t want to sacrifice taste for nutritious, and we don’t think they should have to. We are finding ways to improve the nutrition profile of our foods and beverages while maintaining the great tastes you already love. Earlier in the year, the New York Times Magazine examined our work in making a more nutritious pizza that tastes so good you’ll want to share it with friends.

Just last month, we gave you a glimpse into the future of nutrition innovation here at Nestle, with our announcement that we may have found a way to reduce sugar by up to 40% in chocolate products without losing the same sweet taste or using artificial sweeteners.

In 2017, we need to see more innovation from across the industry that combines great taste with nutritional improvements, and we plan to be on the frontlines.

Building Strong Communities to Grow Together

Our role in contributing to people’s wellness is about more than our foods — it’s about strengthening communities to build a healthier future together. We invest in communities with the belief that for our business to thrive, society must thrive.

That means figuring out a role to play in fighting veteran unemployment, not just through direct hiring but also through career readiness programs that helps us and many businesses benefit from veterans’ unique knowledge and leadership skills. It means supporting our employees as they balance family and work through job flexibility and 14-weeks of paid parental leave. And it means investing in education from schools in cocoa-growing communities in Cote d’Ivoire to Boys and Girls Clubs throughout the U.S. We know that, as a company, we can’t succeed without strong, healthy, and vibrant communities where we work, live and serve.

Nestlé has been a world leader in food innovation for 150 years, since Henri Nestlé invented an infant cereal and the American Page brothers brought condensed milk to Europe. Today our innovators drum up new recipes in test kitchens in our facilities around the world. As we’ve looked back on our legacy of innovation to celebrate our momentous 150th anniversary, we’ve always had an eye on the future. As the world and tastes change, so do we.

On a personal note, I’d like to extend thanks on behalf of all of Nestlé in the United States for all the meals shared, cups of coffee poured, and begging paws rewarded with treats in 2016. It’s been a pleasure to work with local communities and provide the best quality products we can.

We’ll be here in 2017 to work even harder for your nutrition, health, and wellness.