Jul 29

The future of food – will there be enough for everyone?

I’ve just read the latest insight briefing from Innovaro which outlines future innovation opportunities in food and drink. The paper suggests that

the food industry today is facing a similar ʻtipping pointʼ to that which became apparent to many in the energy sector around 5 years ago. Just as the energy sector is facing growing demand, rising prices, climate change and security of supply by shifting its view, so too can the food industry.

Within the food industry and food markets, there are a number of macro drivers of change that are increasingly being recognised as either essential or highly probable developments. Two main driver are:

  • the iminent large scale adoption of GM food, driven by the pressing need to get more yield per unit area of farm land and the impact of the food vs. fuel balance. According to the report, Organic food will be seen as no more than a worthy blip away from the path to increased food yield
  • the rapid and, given current production techniques, unsustainable rise in global meat consumption due to the growing middle classes of India and China moving up the protein ladder. This trend my well need to be answered by the emergence of alternative protein production methods, such as large scale laboratory cultures.

The article goes on to outline three main catalysts for future innovation:

  •  Water Scarcity – according to the paper:

the increasing lack of fresh water for the growing global population will result in more water wars, rising prices and, as a regulatory response, the requirement to declare embedded water. Today, not many people are yet aware that it takes 400,000 litres of water to make a car and 140 litres to make a single Starbucks cappuccino.

  • Efficient Product – this seems to be all about eliminating waste, where the paper says the food industry has some way to go:

As other sectors aim for 100% recycling of product and packaging, the way we manage food and drink supply chains needs to fundamentally change and become more efficient in terms of waste. Innovation in this area in other sectors is already showing tangible results and fuelled by increasing attention to the topic, consumers will expect similar standards of efficiency across sectors.

  • Localised Processing – I’ve talked about his trend in previous posts about future consumers and emerging trends in food production to reduce environmental impact and increase trust in the source of the food. The paper says:

The real changes are coming in the area of food processing which is being driven by a combination of both top down eco-footprint regulation and bottom up community interest. Whether this is for ready meal preparation or more simple produce conversion, shifting the final finishing of more foods from a centralised production model to a smaller, decentralised approach will demand coherent effort across the agriculture sector, food and ingredient manufacturers, retailers and regulators.

The above trends present a mix of threat and opportunity and it’s clear that the organisations who can start to exploit these changes and innovate to provide relevant solutions will be very successful in future. On the other hand, concerningly, there will be increasingly major challenges ahead to find ways to ensure everyone can be fed.

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