Future of Food Global summit


Future of Food summit 2021

How do we scale the necessary transformation

In a packed virtual auditorium at the recent Future of Food summit hosted by Deloitte, various global food leaders discussed how we can accelerate and scale the transition to a new food system.

"Even before Covid, it was clear that our current food systems were not built to last. We’ve overshot the planetary boundaries and we need change the way we produce food to feed the world. Covid clearly showed us the interrelationships between biodiversity and human health, and it is a direct consequence of the way we produce food. We need to transition to a new food system and we need to do it now. We need to get into a restorative, regenerative mode. And for that we need awareness and we need people, regulators, governments to make this a priority. But it is also up to the private sector to step up. There are very few food companies that actually make clear commitments on reaching sustainability targets, and very few that actually integrate biodiversity into their business plans", according to Paul Polman.

“In a food system in which 1bn go hungry, 2bn are overweight or obese, one-third of food is wasted, and which produces 25% of greenhouse gas emissions, it is clear that change is needed. Everybody needs to eat. But we need to be aware that our individual behaviour has consequences. We are leveraging our brands and technology to try and influence customers to do the right thing. I’ve never heard of a consumer who says that they like to waste food. Nobody wants to waste food, and most people want to eat a healthy diet, but they just need a bit of help. Unilever’s Knorr brand builds on this in their ‘Eat for good’ campaign. It works on the premise that you can change the world by changing what is on your plate, for example by eating more vegetables. But we need all the players in the value chain. This includes the need for ambitious and public commitments from the private sector. Once you’ve made your commitment public, you have to live up to it", according to Hanneke Faber.

The elephant in the room

So what is holding us back? What is the biggest challenge? The elephant in the room? An audience poll showed that most participants felt consumer behaviour was the biggest challenge when it comes to building the future food system. This outcome shows that the participants put the responsibility for making the change to a more sustainable food system at the door of the consumer. Research does show that consumers are willing to pay more for more sustainable, healthier, nutritious solutions. But only by collaborating across the ecosystem of the whole value chain, can we create a natural pull towards those products.“My key elephant in the room is ‘the courage to change’,” said Randy Jagt, Deloitte Future of Food lead. “We need people to work together to create transparency, to explore new ways of working together, new opportunities and propositions. We see many exciting developments across the globe – regenerative agriculture, alternative proteins, new ways of farming – but how do we scale this? How do we move from these ideas, concepts, MVPs to large-scale transformation? For that we need to provide financial certainty for farmers, to educate consumers but we also need policy makers, regulators, governments to set up the right platforms for it. I call it the ‘ecosystem approach’ and the time is absolutely right for it.” Judith Batchelar OBE, Director of Corporate Responsibility, Sustainability and Public Affairs at Sainsbury’s also insisted that working together is the only way forward. “We need ‘coalitions of the willing’ to create a fully enabling environment that helps us to take innovative, sustainable products to market and make these engaging and compelling for customers.”

Working across the value chain

DSM’s head of specialty nutrition, Maha Eikharbotly went on to share an example of their collaboration with a supplier of sustainable algae oil. “Algae oil helps aquafarmers, aquaculture feeders to create more sustainable fish. DSM then works with retailers to bring such products front and centre with customers in stores, highlighting the health benefits and the sustainability angle. These are the kind of collaborations we should be seeing across the whole ecosystem. For the planet, but also for business. Collaborating with sustainable suppliers on innovative ingredients brings in revenue and creates more healthy and nutritious food. Our wish is that these types of collaborations become the norm.”

Investment and technology

Alexandra Brand, Regional Director EAME and former Chief Sustainability Officer at Syngenta believes that the biggest roadblock to achieving a good future food system is investment. “The real willingness to finance the change is what is needed most. I believe the awareness is there but making a sustainable change costs money. Providing a level playing field through technology, for example, is costly but we need such technology to produce food in a sustainable way and to share knowledge and insights fairly across all parts of the globe.” Judith agrees that “investing in global data standards systems would allow everyone to have access to the same metrics, and to speak the same ‘language’, while at the same time providing a tailored approach, because every situation is different. Different per commodity, per country, etc. From smallholder farms to large corporates.”It is clear that the whole value chain is involved in moving towards a better, healthier, more sustainable food system and that it is time to move from talking to doing. And therefore, every participant was asked to think about their role and commitment in this mission.

How about you? What will you do differently tomorrow?

Aftermovie | Future of Food Global Summit

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