Sustainability - industry driver

Sustainability does not just include reductions in waste and carbon footprint. Sustainability encompasses the whole of a business to ensure that they, their suppliers and their customers can work together to maintain a resilient food production system. This will include increased use of concepts such as circular economy, as well as appreciation of the impact of external forces beyond the control of one company.

Explore the latest industry Sustainability needs below. You may also be interested in viewing our current research projects.

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Sustainability by popularity graph

Fundamental needs

  • As legal limits for contaminants (e.g. allergens, toxins or pathogens) trend lower, there is a need for fast, accurate tests for these substances. Modern production practices alo demand that these tests be performed on-line. There is also a need for communication between legislators and industry to agree on practical limits which do not result in unnecessary waste of food. Consideration also needs to be given to the detection of genuine food fraud (as opposed to contamination) and the consequences of a positive result.
  • Reduction of carbon footprint relies on accurate measurement of the effect of changes. What is appropriate for one facet of the industry (e.g. local sourcing of ingredients) may not have the same impact in a different product area. Guidance on the principles of carbon footprint reduction and advice on practical steps to take is required by industry.
  • Consumers are increasingly aware of the environmental effects of their food choices. Better communication between consumers and industry will help inform consumers regarding the steps taken by industry to make more sustainable products, and it will inform industry of the drivers behind consumer choices.
  • Packaging material and its end of life journey are fundamental to improving the sustainability of food products. Novel, more sustainable, packaging materials must provide the same functionality as those they replace. There is a need to accurately test the properties of novel materials as well as standards against which to test. These standards must include sustainability measures such as recyclability.
  • There is always a need for better ways of detecting and mitigating against pests, disease and poor yield. This is ever more pressing in response to the changing climate, which is introducing new pressures to productive agricultural areas. Limited resources, such as phosphorous, need to be conserved whilst seeking new sources. These pressures will result in changing agronomic and agricultural practices, the impact of which must be understood by manufacturers, retailers and consumers.
  • Better traceability of ingredients, packaging and products are essential to improve sustainability. Standards need to be developed for innovations such as Blockchain.
  • Systems to aid sustainability are needed. These include: Recovery and recycling packaging; Health and Safety of the workforce; Novel production practices with sustainability at as a core driver; Crisis management; Management of supply and demand.
  • The increasing use of connected devices and systems in the food industry has increased the potential for cyber attack. There is a need for robust protection of data and devices.
  • The food industry has a need for better waste management. Valorisation of waste streams as part of a circular economy is needed. Packaging forms a significant portion of food industry waste, and there is a need to increase the recyclability of food packaging. Consumers are also key to waste reduction through better education regarding re-use and recycling of packaging as well as ways to reduce food waste. The industry is also always in need of shelf life extension for perishable products as a waste reduction measure.

Emerging needs

  • Inflation is causing businesses to operate on reduced profit margins. The costs of energy and packaging are of particular relevance to the industry. There is a need to reduce these costs immediately to prevent further price rises for consumers.
  • Global supply chains are under increasing pressure. Raw material availability has reduced and spot buying has reduced the ability of factories to plan production. There is a need to improve the availability and supply of raw materials.
  • The food industry is making good progress in reducing use of plastic. There is still a need to further reduce the amount of single use plastic in the industry, and to make sure that any replacement materials such as paper and board have a sustainable life cycle.
  • Recycling of packaging is an obvious way to improve the sustainability of food products. Although progress has been made, there is still a lack of recycled raw material available for food packaging, and this is particularly true for flexible packaging. There is a need to develop materials that can be easily recycled, and a need to improve recycling rates of existing materials.
  • Recent harvests have resulted in lower protein levels in crops such as wheat. There is a need to develop methods to increase those levels and to be able to process lower protein raw material successfully.
  • The impact of Avian Flu is being felt in the poultry and egg sectors with reduced supply of poultry and egg products as a result. There is a need to reduce the impact of this and future outbreaks, potentially via the use of vaccines.
  • Food grade carbon dioxide is derived from the Haber process, which relies on natural gas. Current gas prices are high, and as a result the fertiliser plants producing carbon dioxide are reducing production and the carbon dioxide by product is in shorter supply. There is a need to find replacements for carbon dioxide, as well as a need to find alternative sources of the gas.
  • The UK has experienced low rainfall over the summer and this is predicted to be a trend. There is a need to study irrigation systems in countries with lower rainfall and adapt them for the UK.
  • Fertiliser prices have increased. There is a need to investigate alternative sources of fertiliser, and a need to develop crops and methods that can deliver a plentiful harvest with lower amounts of fertiliser.
  • Phosphates are essential for plant nutrition, however their price has increased and supply has been disrupted. There is a need to capture and use phosphates from sources that they would otherwise be lost from such as sewage or run-off.

The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of Campden BRI but are a summary of industrial feedback obtained from Campden BRI’s Member Interest Groups and interactions with government bodies and wider industry.

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