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Report: Serious Risks to UK Food System If We Don't Embrace 'Business Unusual' Approach to Food

Image credit: WRAP

What will our food system look like 10 years from now? According to a new report from the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), a sustainable, secure UK food system will depend on industry and government action to reframe issues and innovate. The waste-reduction charity predicts there will be new business opportunities in protein supply, data-enabled technology, and food designed for nutritional requirements.

The report, Food Futures: from business as usual to business unusual, assesses 15 topics for risks and opportunities from farm to fork and outlines recommendations. As the accompanying launch video points out, the way that we produce, sell, and consume food has changed dramatically over the past 50 years. The new report looks forward to the next decade to predict trends, risks, and opportunities.

“In the next ten years we will be faced with challenges around feeding a growing population and nutritional security. Our ‘Food Futures’ report highlights how governments, businesses and we, as consumers, can turn these challenges into opportunities,” said Dr. Liz Goodwin, CEO at WRAP. “We need to be 21st-Century ‘FIT’ [flexible, intelligent and transparent] to meet this challenge. By embracing the growth in data enabled technology and aligning healthy and environmentally sustainable diets we can nourish both the individual and the planet.”

WRAP expects three key trends to influence the future of food in the UK: increasing challenges to food system resilience; an explosion of data-enabled technology; and the alignment of public health and environmental sustainability agendas. External climate risks, diet-related ill health, and reducing food waste will remain persistent challenges that will need to be addressed if the increasing demand is to be met.

Technology will enhance agriculture for precise, optimized production. The report explains that data-enabled technologies, such as Controlled Traffic Farming (CTF), will efficiently distribute water, energy, and fertilizers as needed for optimal yield, thereby reducing input costs by up to 75 percent. Meanwhile, intelligent temperature controls will minimize carbon impact and improve freshness in manufacturing and transportation. WRAP expects consumers to have more accurate data on where their ingredients and food is from, and home to get the most of it.

Other business opportunities of note include new commercial models for sustainable aquaculture, alternative feeds for proteins, and designing food products for precise nutritional and taste requirements based on health concerns or age group.

WRAP is also trying to mitigate food waste in the UK and Europe from the consumer standpoint: Recent efforts include research that suggests that an increase on product life by extending sell-by dates by just one day across a range of foods could prevent roughly 250,000 tons of food waste each year; and iFreeze — a joint campaign with Iglo Group, Europe’s largest frozen-foods company. iFreeze highlights that European households waste an average of €260 of food every year (practically admirable when compared with American homes, which on average waste about $1,500 worth per year), and provides tips on how increased use of both freezing and frozen food can help to reduce waste and save money.

Hannah Furlong is an Editorial Assistant for Sustainable Brands, based in Canada. She is researching the circular economy as a Master's student in Sustainability Management at the University of Waterloo and holds a Bachelor's in Environment and Business Co-op. Hannah… [Read more about Hannah Furlong]

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