New lifestyles, shifting demographics and growing concerns about nutrition, health and sustainability are all driving changes in consumption. We spoke to Milena Lazarevska, Head of Future Brands & Investing at Sainsbury’s, to find out more about its Taste of the Future initiative and future innovation.

What’s your driving focus at Sainsbury’s to trial disruptive food and drink products in over 60 stores?

As part of our mission to deliver distinctive products to our customers, we have launched a new ambient trial bay called ‘Taste of the Future’ in 69 stores. This pioneering proposition allows us to trial the most exciting and innovative brands in the market faster. The scheme enables Sainsbury’s to discover new trends, missions and brands, whilst giving brands a chance to access grocery shoppers, work with a large retailer, and gain invaluable customer insight.

Retailers have been notoriously slow to innovate. Why are we seeing a change in pace now?

We formed the Future Brands team in Sainsbury’s just over a year ago as a critical element to deliver distinctiveness and differentiation for our customers, which we believe will give our customers even more reasons to choose to shop with us. There has been a big focus on innovation and quite a bit of investment in the food and drink industry, and we’ve seen some great distinctive brands come on the market in the last few years. The Future Brands team objective is to make sure we find and exclusively partner with the best distinctive brands, and support them in their growth.

Which new innovations are on the horizon for consumers looking for groundbreaking new foods, in particular millennials? What is your vision for the sector?

It won’t be a surprise to your delegates that plant-based protein alternatives across all categories continue to be a hot bed for innovation. While we already stock a few meat and fish alternatives, we’re seeing innovation in dairy replacers both as ingredients and in finished products, like the vegan cupcakes Oggs which we recently launched. Meal replacement drinks and bars are a very interesting new category which has had great success as a direct-to-consumer model, and we’re testing this in our Taste of the Future trial.

Which areas of innovation would you like to see in stores in the next 3-5 years, and how do you think our consumption habits could change?

We’ve published a report on this which your delegates can view here.

Who are you looking to meet at Future Food-Tech London?
I’d love to meet innovative brands who are looking to get into the Grocery market in the UK and would like to partner with Sainsbury’s.

Milena will speak on the Day 2 opening panel: How Are Consumption Habits Changing Our Food System? alongside:

Victoria Spadaro-GrantCTO, BARILLA and CEO & President, BLU1877, ITALY
Geoff BryantVP R&DQUORN FOODS, UK
Gil Horsky
Director of Innovation SnackFuturesMONDELEZ INTERNATIONAL, USA
Jonathan WebsterVP Global Growth StrategyTHE KELLOGG COMPANY, UK