Skills and knowledge

A skilled, knowledgeable workforce is essential to deliver safe, good quality nutritious food in a sustainable manner. The food industry faces many challenges such as a shortage of skilled operatives, and increasingly fewer people with visibility of the wider industry and its relationship with regulatory bodies. Better communication within industry and between industry and external stakeholders will help to resolve these issues.

Fundamental needs

  • Brexit has led to a loss of skilled and knowledgeable people across the industry. There are also large knowledge gaps surrounding the specific impact of Brexit on legislation and guidance. There is a need for recruitment from the EU, and a need for guidance on how the new regulatory landscape affects the food industry. There is also a need for better food industry representation during the drafting of any new legislation.
  • Consumers require knowledge of the food industry to understand the complexities within it. Better knowledge will lead to a more informed debate over formulation and processing of food products. There is a need for clear communication to the consumer of the challenges facing the industry and the methods used to address those challenges. This should be done via the mass media.
  • Guidance on how to deal with waste products from production in the most sustainable manner is required, as well as guidance for consumers on how to minimise domestic waste.
  • Better communication between industry and legislators is required to inform both parties when guidance and legislation is being produced. There is also a need for clear guidance on the differences between different countries or legislative areas and the impact of those differences on the food industry.
  • There is a need for more skilled people to follow a career in the food industry. This can be addressed through better promotion of the industry as a whole, as well as increased collaboration between food companies and Academia. Promotion of the food industry as a stimulating and rewarding career pathway is also essential.
  • As the food industry becomes more reliant on digital solutions during production, distribution and retail, there is a need for people and syatems that can integrate the data produced. Meaningful integration of the food supply chain data will lead to more predictable production and better traceability. It will also have a positive impact on sustainability. New technologies for production and processing must be able to integrate into this digital architechture.

Emerging needs

  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) is becoming more sophisticated, with many potential applications in the food industry, with sensory data capture and customer complaints mentioned as recent examples. There are concerns as well regarding the IT infrastructure upon which the AI would sit.
  • Remote auditing has become far more widely used during the pandemic. This has led to a need to assess the advantages, disadvantages and technology used for these audits.
  • Brexit has led to increased border controls for imports and exports. There is a need to minimise the impact of these controls on the smooth transfer of goods across borders. One particular concern raised recently is the status of Northern Ireland and the uncertainty surrounding political decisions regarding imports and exports.
  • Brexit is reported to be providing an opportunity for food fraud due to the increased complexity of supply chains. There is a need to understand and remove this opportunity.
  • The world of work will permanently change post-covid, and the food industry will need to adapt. This will include: familiarisation with software; regular tests for Sars-Cov-2; the effects on mental health of lockdowns and changes to working; increased working from home and changes to management techniques these changes require.
  • On-boarding of staff needs to be adapted to the post-covid industry.
  • The food industry requires a continuous supply of skilled technical people. There is a need to increase this supply through active promotion of the food industry as a rewarding career path.
  • Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are present in an increasing number of ingredients and products. There is a need to communicate the principles behind, and benefits of, these organisms to the general public.
  • There is a wealth of knowledge on food safety in the food industry, however it is concentrated within larger companies. There is a need to disseminate this knowledge more widely to improve standards in the industry as a whole.
  • Use-by' and 'best before' date marks are widely understood within the food industry, however there is still confusion over the difference between the two in the wider community. There is a need to communicate the difference better, and to engage the public on how they are set.
  • Labelling products correctly is essential. Recently, clarification has been sought in the following areas: Calorie labelling; UK/EU divergence; 'Clean Label' definition; Plant-based products and novel protein sources.
  • Brexit has reduced the pool of workers available to the industry as EU citizens have returned. There is a need to increase awareness of the EU settlement scheme to retain talent.
  • Shopping habits have changed during the pandemic. There is a need to identify and quantify these changes, and to monitor the degree to which they return to pre-pandemic habits.
  • Increased use of digital technology promises to deliver traceability data swiftly and accurately to interested parties. There is a need to agree on data sharing protocols and software compatibility before this can occur.
  • Online training has proven to be a useful tool during the pandemic. There are advantages (e.g. increased reach) and disadvantages (e.g. lower engagement) to this approach. There is a need to blend face-to-face and virtual training courses to maximise information delivery.

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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