Who’s with me… Covid-19 has been a great pain in the posterior! Right? Especially for Food Sector challenges. I don’t know about you but I thought we were going to put this behind us in 2020 and yet here we are fighting the fight in 2021. Still.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a serious issue and I’ve written article after article addressing this topic. Topics that deal with how do you train, surge in demand, vaccine priority, employee concerns and now that there is vaccine post-pandemic and what’s next. But now that it has spilled over into 2021+ I thought I might address some challenges and trends caused by this dilemma going forward.
Let’s address some of the challenges and see if there is some light at the end of the tunnel.
Challenge #1 – Evolutionary Thinking
Let me point out the obvious… Food manufacturing is one of those sectors where it’s not possible to work from home. I mean, you can’t process chicken on Google Hangouts, right? So workplace changes need to take place and in some cases are. An evolution is transpiring from reactive to proactive. For instance:
- The maintenance function at food & beverage producing companies has evolved from primarily doing repairs to preventive maintenance, resulting in increased uptime.
- New technologies, like IoT sensors, make it possible to further improve overall equipment effectiveness, but also food safety.
This is a great time to re-look at processes, practices and technology evolution.
Challenge #2 – Technology Age
Processors that have not yet adapted to the digital world will need to do so in order to survive. Technology is becoming more important than ever and a smart business will need to team up with a vendor that “gets it”. The technology age is here whether we like it or not.
Whether it’s an integration of virtual and physical inspections in the future, the use of blockchain to better traceability and prevent fraud, new customer choice demands like cultured meat and sustainability we’re only just beginning the ‘Technology Age’. Having a fluid vendor/partnership like Coolearth Software will be critical.
Challenge #3 – Sustainability: Waste and Pollution
A complete focus on dealing with the pandemic has put some real ‘other’ issues at risk. All of the sudden long term focus on climate changes and sustainability disappeared for example. Issues that need to be addressed and are not going away. Here are two areas that need re-focused:
- Plastic wrapping has crept back, driven by consumer worries over virus contamination. It is vital that the industry puts sustainability back to the top of the priority list or years of good work could be undone. And then there’s food waste.
- Statistics around global food waste are actually scary. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization reports the amount of “primary product equivalents” wasted amounts to 1.6 billion tonnes. The carbon footprint of all this wasted food is estimated to be 3.3 billion tonnes.
While it is difficult for the industry to impact how much food consumers throw away, the need for more creative partnerships to continue the good work within the food industry is imperative. A critical re-focus needs to transpire.
Challenge #4 – Prevent Shutdowns
The restaurant industry has transformed from dining room to takeaway overnight. Businesses will have to continue to ensure that their customers get the necessary allergen information to keep them safe, no matter whether they are sitting at a restaurant table or in front of their television.
An on again off again dynamic has presented new challenges to restaurants as this transpires, such as working out how many staff are needed during the periods operated as a takeaway, or whether order quantities of ingredients need to change accordingly. Robust digital tracking, traceability and new processes (labels, etc.) will need to be implemented.
Challenge #5 – Fraud and Cheap Food
A surge in demand coupled with economic downturn for some meant the priority was getting food on shelves and tables as cheaply as possible, opening the door for disingenuous operators to move in.
The desire for cheap food isn’t going anywhere. While this desire remains, food crime will continue. It is up to the industry to devise methods to combat a problem which threatens to derail trust in certain products. Transparency is crucial during these trying times.
Challenge #6 – Plant-Based Innovation
Hot item and direction alert! The last few years have seen a marked increase in the amount of people opting for at least a partial plant-based diet, and this rise is showing little sign of slowing down.
“2020 showed us that consumers are interested in trying and buying more plant-based foods, as sales of foods like plant-based proteins and milks topped $3.3 billion over the past year. – Mike Wystrach, Founder & CEO of Freshly
I suggest that we’ll see more partnerships developing plant-based food breakthroughs and demonstrate that innovation in the industry is a must.
As vaccines are administered and things wind down from Covid-19 a re-focus on food and sector issues will continue pre-pandemic paths. To stay on track, and budget, start the process by partnering with companies such as Coolearth Software to make sure you are trending in line with industry channels. Things have changed, of course, and will never be the same at some level, but that is not always a bad thing.