Sustainable solutions revealed for food industry

Wednesday, 31 July, 2019

Sustainable solutions revealed for food industry

Hosted in Amsterdam in June, the Sustainable Foods Summit explored new developments for eco-labels and sustainability in the food industry by discussing key industry issues in a high-level forum. The 11th European summit covered a range of issues, ranging from the rising market share of sustainable foods to new technologies changing the face of retail.

The summit revealed the increase in ethical labelling, with over a quarter of all coffee and cocoa now produced according to third-party sustainability schemes. ‘Organic’ is the dominant food and beverage label, with sales exceeding $100 billion in 2018.

The economic risks of climate change were also brought forward at the summit, with Tobias Bandel from Soil & More detailing how climate change is affecting soil fertility and crop yields. Bandel called for farmers to reduce economic risks by building farm-system resilience via crop rotation and diversity, green manure and crops, and biomass recycling.

An estimated one-third of all food produced is wasted, making food waste a major sustainability issue. Planet Organic, a retail chain, attained zero waste (edible food) status by donating 11 tonnes of surplus food from its seven stores in 2018. Redirecting food waste to charities allowed Planet Organic to improve its sustainability.

Julia Gause from FairAfric discussed the advantages or adding social value in supply chains. Farmer conditions have improved due to sustainability schemes like Fairtrade and UTZ Certified, but these have done little to improve poverty levels. ‘Do-colonising’ supply chains for chocolate by producing in Ghana could generate five times higher income for producers than sourcing cocoa alone.

Plant-based foods have experienced a surge in popularity on the global market, projected to reach $5.2 billion in 2020. Research reveals that 52% of consumers prefer the taste of plant-based food, with companies taking a targeted approach when developing products for diverse consumer groups. In her closing keynote, Heather Mills, public figure and founder of V-Bites, said plant-based foods provide many solutions to sustainability problems facing the food industry.

Research indicates that over 6.3 billion tonnes of plastic waste has been produced since the 1950s, with only 9% of it recycled. Retailers are urged to develop plastic-free aisles, with increasing investment in sustainable packaging materials. Plastic alternatives, such as thermoplastic starch from plant sugars used to make compostable packaging for fruits and vegetables, were presented at the summit.

An ethical egg labelling scheme was brought forward by Martijn Haarman from Seleggt to minimise the culling of male chicks each year. The new scheme uses an identification technique that prevents the hatching of male eggs, with remaining eggs labelled ‘Respeggt’. The technique was endorsed by the German Federal Administrative Court in June.

The implications of digital trends on the grocery industry were also outlined, with retailers adapting physical stores to provide staff-less stores (Amazon Go), drone deliveries ( and direct-to-fridge deliveries (Walmart).

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