Between now and the end of the next decade, the global population is expected to increase by another 1 billion people, almost half of whom will be living in Africa. It is of little surprise, therefore, that many of our customers are adapting both their business models and their products to address the specific needs of the emerging African market. Our deeper-in-the-pyramid initiative, launched at the start of this decade, has taken us a considerable way along this journey, ensuring we are well placed to provide processing and packaging solutions that will support our customers’ ambitions in this huge but fledgling growth arena.
From a category perspective, we are confident that the next three years will see rising demand for both dairy and fruit beverages, with significant growth in differentiated dairy products that target specific consumer tastes and needs. Rising demand for edible dairy also looks set to continue its positive trend, where recent steps to strengthen our cheese and ice cream equipment portfolios provide a solid foundation for strong growth through the coming years, in sectors where there is significant opportunity to increase our market share.
Among consumers, health and longevity continue to be primary concerns, but access to information has brought a sharpening focus on food sourcing and packaging. In our annual consumer preferences survey, two-thirds of those polled said they would pay more for food and beverage packaging that is environmentally sound, a similar proportion to those who would pay more for packaging that is easy to use.
We continue to invest in understanding the shifting needs of consumers, whether arising from changes in consumption habits, demographics, lifestyle choices, shopping methods, or any one of many other factors that will shape the future of our industry.
We are actively working with many of our customers to explore these trends, and to help them identify opportunities for growth, be that in new categories, new geographies, or the upgrade and repositioning of existing brands. Supporting this effort, we have now opened six Customer Innovation Centres in key locations worldwide, where we work with our customers to develop products and solutions that meet a specific market need, moving from idea generation to trial runs of new products and marketing concepts during the course of their visit. Last year we hosted sessions for almost 700 customers
Alongside this, of course, we continue to focus significant effort on delivering processing, packaging and service solutions that will help our customers reduce waste, cut emissions, lessen consumption, drive productivity, lower costs and improve product quality. We recognise that technological innovation will continue to drive significant disruptive change in our industry, affecting the way food is manufactured, sold, purchased and consumed. Our aim is to stay ahead of the curve, anticipating these changes, addressing the challenges and delivering world-leading solutions that continue to support the success of our customers long into the future.