Four Stages in the Cycle of Food
A perfectly round shape that continues in perpetuity, the circle is an apt emblem for true sustainability. In a circular model, every end feeds into a new beginning. Each carrot, for example, eventually returns to the soil that produced it. SACCNY talked with experts in all stages of the food life cycle—Production, Packaging/Transportation, Consumption, and Waste—about the technologies and innovations pushing their respective fields forward.
“In a near future we will no longer talk about ‘minimizing our negative impact,’ but rather about ‘maximizing our positive impact.’”
– Anna Schreil
The Circle of Life
Anna Schreil on Production
Anna Schreil, Vice President of Operations at The Absolut Company, speaks on net-positive impact and the impending necessity of circularity in production.
How is innovation driving sustainable practices forward in your industry?
We need to work on informing and empowering co-workers, suppliers, partners, customers, and society as a whole. We need people with limitless thinking— those that are challenged by problems, to find new ways to produce energy; to renew, reuse, reduce, and recycle materials; to find new ways to communicate and reach more people.
What are the current trends in production?
As in most industries, circularity is an objective and a target for us. Since climate change is getting more and more obvious, all serious and risk-minimizing businesses are acting in one way or another to firstly minimize emissions, and secondly to develop adaptations to the changes we will inevitably meet. We work a lot on finding the most energy-efficient ways to produce and transport our goods, and use renewables both in production and transport. In Sweden, all our outbound transports are now running on renewable fuels.
How will the way we think about sustainability in terms of production change in the next, say, 10 years?
I think that in a near future we will no longer talk about ”minimizing our negative impact,” but rather about ”maximizing our positive impact.” We will start to work toward creating ”goodness” and exploring how to get a net-positive impact, as well as how to calculate and report these positive effects. Customers and consumers will probably put a lot higher demand on producers. In order to get a ”license to operate,” we will need to not only disclose all we do, but also what our contribution to a better world will be.
Flexibility is Key
Andreas Jeppsson on Packaging and Transportation
Andreas Jeppsson, Managing Director of Ecolean, Inc. Talks aseptic technology, EPDs, and what the consumer of
the future really wants.
What technologies or innovations are disrupting your industry?
Aseptic technology continues to gain market share both here in the U.S. and in other global markets. Aseptic technology ensures that both food and packaging material are free from harmful bacterias, meaning aseptically packaged products are shelf stable for an extended time without need for refrigeration or any added preservatives. Aseptic aligns with the trend of clean labels and food safety, as well as providing better taste, color, and nutrient value to the products.
How is innovation driving sustainable practices forward?
There is an increasing demand on the whole value chain, including food producers, brand owners, retailers, foodservice companies, and end consumers, for more environmentally sustainable products. Solutions that minimize the amount of raw material used and generate less food and package waste are getting more and more attention.
What trends do you see in packaging and transportation?
E-commerce is the fastest growing sales channel, which means more demand for durable packaging that isn’t easily dented or crushed during transportation and handling.
How will the way we transport and package products change in the next 10 years?
In general, we are moving toward solutions with greater efficiency and reduced environmental impact. Less food waste and less package waste—not only for the consumer but also during production. The market demand for Environmental Product Declarations, or EPDs, will also increase.
We Are What (and How and Why) We Eat
Dr. Robert Brummer on Consumption
Dr. Robert Brummer, Professor of Gastroenterology and Clinical Nutrition at Örebro University, considers health a vital element of sustainable development. He talks about shifting the paradigm from illness to wellness and looks beyond vegan and gluten-free diets to the future of hyper-individualized food choices.
“I see three drivers for future development, which partly interact with each other,” says Dr. Brummer.
“First of all, the Internet-of-Things (IoT).” While you may not be familiar with the term, we are already living it. Whether tracking activity via Fitbit or engaging the auto-park feature in our car, the IoT allows all devices connected to the internet to interact with each other, with or without human guidance. Gartner, Inc. predicts that by 2020, there will be over 20 billion connected “things” in place. That includes people-people, people-thing, and thinking interactions, which Brummer says will enable a totally novel way to integrate the consumer with the producer/retailer.
Secondly, a shift from the illness-paradigm to the wellness-paradigm. “My feeling is that consumers not only want food that is tasty, safe, and ‘fair trade,’ but they also see the possibility that the right food can make you feel better. Not in the traditional sense of preventing future illness or disorders (cardiovascular, cancer, dementia, etc.), but I use that language to denote a shift from the illness-paradigm toward the wellness-paradigm.
” Third of all, the growing trend towards highly customized food. ”What is suitable for the moment? Which food choice is best for your age, your genome, your activities, and perhaps with your typical symptoms (abdominal discomfort, allergy, skin disorders), but also dedicated just for that moment? For example, we will consider what to eat to avoid jetlag, to relieve acute stress, or just before a mental exercise.”
Our Daily Bread
Tristram Stuart Speaks on Waste
Tristram Stuart is an award-winning author, renowned speaker, advocate against global food waste, CEO of Feedback, and founder of Toast Ale, a UK beer brewed with surplus bread.
What technologies or innovations are disrupting your industry?
Some notable examples are FoodCloud, which connects and redistributes surplus to charities; Winnow Solutions, which allows restaurants to track and prevent food wastage; and Olio, which enables people to reduce household food waste by sharing with neighbors and friends.
What trends do you see in the business of food waste?
Lots of creative and amazing products made from surplus and food destined for the garbage. Bread is the most wasted household item in the UK. One of the ventures I started is Toast Ale, which brews delicious beer from unsold loaves at bakeries and unused crusts from sandwich makers. I used the profits to fund Feedback, the charity I founded to fight food waste at a systemic level. Using my international network of food waste activists, we scaled the idea to be hugely impactful at a global level.
How will the way we both create and manage waste change in the next 10 years?
I hope that we will be working toward a circular model of managing food waste in the coming decade. This food system means that food previously perceived as waste actually has value and can be used as a resource. If food is still fit for human consumption, it should feed people. When food is no longer fit to feed people, it should be repurposed to feed livestock and fish. Food-waste leftover from feeding livestock should then be fed to soils through compost and manure. All three levels of the food system—humans, animals, and soils, need to be fed and replenished to create a sustainable future.
How does innovation drive sustainable practices forward?
In order for such radical change in how we produce and manage waste, we need all sectors to work hand in hand. Feedback campaigns and works with people from private and public sectors to end food waste at a systemic level. From produce left to rot on farms due to supermarkets’ cosmetic standards, to catering waste sent to AD or landfill because of the EU ban on feeding swill to pigs. Feedback seeks to change regulations and policies by changing society’s attitude on food waste.