Seven challenges and trends the food industry can expect in 2021

As 2020 lastly ends and the world welcomes (a hopefully brighter) 2021, Joshua Minchin of New Meals outlines the key challenges and tendencies that the meals business can anticipate over the following 12 months.

2021 stock fruit and veg

The English language is dangerously near operating out of the way to explain 2020, so let’s borrow a little bit of Latin: it actually has been an Annus horribilis. The meals business has, after all, discovered it significantly robust. The mixture of getting to deal with elevated demand, paired with restrictions on manufacturing and regulation processes has made life very troublesome for everyone within the provide chain. As we enter the brand new 12 months, it’s time to look forward – what’s going to the business need to cope with in 2021 and who can anticipate a greater 12 months? Right here’s New Meals’s forecast.

1. Upholding security requirements

The world has been residing with Coronavirus via most of 2020, and, sadly, the pandemic reveals little signal of abating, particularly within the early months of 2021. Making certain that security requirements are upheld within the business is essential to sustaining the excessive stage of belief that customers have in meals producers presently. This consists of ensuring that each the meals on our plates is suitable for eating and that the individuals who made it are taken care of too.

Meals manufacturing is a kind of sectors the place it isn’t doable to do business from home – you possibly can’t package deal meat over Microsoft Groups, in any case. Protecting staff protected and restoring confidence within the workforce that their manufacturing facility is a safe atmosphere will proceed to be key for corporations all through 2021.  

How do you guarantee that meals manufacturing stays at a excessive security normal with out bodily inspections? That has been the query companies such because the US Meals and Drug Administration (FDA) and the UK Meals Requirements Company (FSA) have confronted all 12 months, with little respite showing over the forehead of the brand new 12 months. In steerage revealed for companies in Could 2020, the FSA stated it will be deferring some bodily inspections on account of the pandemic. Equally in March, the FDA introduced it was “quickly suspending all home and overseas routine surveillance facility inspections”, although some home inspections did resume in July.

An unlimited quantity of belief has been positioned in producers by regulators. FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn FDA-regulated companies “perceive and respect their shared accountability to make sure the integrity of the provision chain”.

Regardless of the rise in optimistic instances following the invention of a brand new pressure within the UK, the sector is now much more geared up to cope with the virus. As such, producers ought to anticipate bodily inspections to recommence and get ready.

2. Protecting sustainability on the entrance burner

With the vaccine now accessible, it appears as if the  COVID-19 disaster will come to an finish in some unspecified time in the future throughout 2021. Nonetheless, the local weather disaster isn’t going anyplace. Whereas sustainability points throughout the meals business have considerably understandably taken a again seat, it’s essential that they’re introduced again to the fore quickly. Particularly, progress made on eliminating single use plastics from the business has taken just a few steps backwards.

Reusable cups, so heralded within the combat in opposition to plastic waste, were banned from coffee shops back in March. However plastic wrapping has crept again, pushed by shopper worries over virus contamination – one solely has to go to the grocery store to see the ocean of plastic snuggled round our fruit and veg. Even issues like Perspex screens, which are actually discovered in lots of eating places world wide, contribute to the issue. It’s important that the business places sustainability again to the highest of the precedence checklist subsequent 12 months, lest years of excellent work be undone.

Equally, 2021 may be the 12 months when the large problem of meals waste will get some much-needed mild shed upon it.

The statistics round international meals waste are quite startling. The UN’s food and Agriculture Organization say the quantity of “main product equivalents” wasted quantities to 1.6 billion tonnes. The carbon footprint of all this wasted meals is estimated to be 3.3 billion tonnes. 

FAO launches platform to accelerate action on food loss and waste

Meals waste is an enormous contributor to carbon emissions worldwide

Regardless of it being troublesome for the business to affect how a lot meals shoppers throw away, it could possibly (and has) devised progressive methods to make use of supplies destined for the bin. For instance, Toast Ale makes use of surplus bread as an alternative of virgin barley to brew its vary of craft beers, saving practically two million slices of bread from merely being tossed. The corporate makes use of the heel finish of loaves from the sandwich business which might in any other case be wasted.

With some good effort and communication, corporations like Toast and the bakeries it really works with have confirmed that it’s doable to scale back waste throughout the manufacturing course of. This demonstrates the necessity for extra inventive partnerships to proceed the nice work throughout the meals business as we transfer into 2021. 

3. Coping with fixed shutdowns

Eating places have maybe needed to adapt probably the most throughout 2020, with many pressured to remodel from a bustling eating room right into a takeaway in a single day. This has raised explicit issues in terms of offering ample allergen data to clients. Fairly merely, there’s not that security web of bodily interplay to double examine {that a} sure dish doesn’t include nuts, for instance. The FSA has informed companies providing a takeaway service that they need to present allergen data when taking an order. This may be performed in print on-line, or orally over the cellphone. Equally, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health stated takeaway meals packaging ought to show all the related allergen data on it.

Companies must proceed to make sure that their clients get the mandatory allergen data to maintain them protected, irrespective of whether or not they’re sat at a restaurant desk or in entrance of their tv.

Within the UK, pubs and eating places in several areas have been – and nonetheless are being – pressured to open and shut relying on case charges, with related eventualities possible in Germany, Italy, and different international locations using a localised response to fight the pandemic. This on/off dynamic will current new challenges to eating places, corresponding to understanding what number of workers are wanted throughout the intervals operated as a takeaway, or whether or not order portions of substances want to vary accordingly.

food delivery driver

As eating places flip into takeaways, will probably be vital that allergen data remains to be precisely relayed to shoppers

4. Meals fraud

Apart from the pretty apparent provide and logistics points the pandemic has offered, the circumstances brewed by COVID-19 gave (and nonetheless is giving) ample alternative for meals criminals. A surge in demand coupled with financial downturn for some meant the precedence was getting meals on cabinets and tables as cheaply as doable, opening the door for disingenuous operators to maneuver in.

A latest report by Dr Peter Awram from the BeeHIVE Research Centre on the College of British Columbia advised that the honey business was within the grips of an epidemic of its personal. In response to Awram, a research from the Canadian authorities advised that over 1 / 4 of honey had been adulterated in 2019.

Whereas Professor Chris Elliott of Queen’s College Belfast expressed faith within the UK’s meals safety, he admitted that he had issues in regards to the honesty of some international markets. Certainly, Prof Elliott solely just lately outlined his fears that fraud remains to be rife throughout the spice market, with sage specifically seemingly weak to adulterations. Regardless of this, it’s value noting that some within the sector have performed extremely properly at creating strong chains – McCormick for one, and you’ll learn extra about its mission for whole transparency within the newest problem of New Food.

The will for reasonable meals isn’t going anyplace, particularly as we glance to be simply getting began in terms of the financial results of the COVID-19 pandemic. Whereas this need stays, meals crime will proceed. It’s as much as the business to plot strategies to fight an issue which threatens to derail belief in sure merchandise.

5. Plant-based marches on

The previous few years have seen a marked improve within the quantity of individuals choosing not less than a partial plant-based weight-reduction plan, and this rise is displaying little signal of slowing down. Mike Wystrach, Founder & CEO of Freshly (a ready meals supplier) sees a slight shift by way of whether or not shoppers decide to go absolutely plant-based of their weight-reduction plan or not. He stated: “2020 confirmed us that customers are interested by attempting and shopping for extra plant-based meals, as gross sales of meals like plant-based proteins and milks topped $3.3 billion over the previous 12 months.

“In 2021, I anticipate that customers will proceed to put extra of an emphasis on sustaining a ‘plant-forward’ weight-reduction plan, as an alternative of following a strict plant-based one. We are going to see extra individuals go for the age-old possibility of following plant-based consuming ideas, versus going fully vegetarian or vegan to gas lively existence, assist weight reduction, or obtain different well being and health associated ambitions at residence.”

Extra family names are starting to launch their merchandise in vegan type, with a number of massive releases slated for 2021. McDonald’s is gearing as much as launch its McPlant vary later this 12 months, whereas KFC has introduced again its vegan Imposter burger particularly for Veganuary. Plant-based options might quickly be on the menu at all your favorite quick meals retailers.  

The meals business has a pace drawback.

Plant-based progress must speed up although, in accordance with Mike Leonard, Chief Technical Officer at Motif FoodWorks. “The meals business has a pace drawback. Because it stands, ’urgency’ usually interprets to 2 or three-year R&D timelines. Which means if we wish to remedy key challenges in style, texture and diet dealing with at present’s plant-based meals, we’re already delayed. We merely can’t wait that lengthy with shoppers and retailers alike searching for new, extra, and higher choices.

“This 12 months, I anticipate meals gamers throughout the business will make a concerted push to speed up innovation timelines. We’ll see extra partnerships with consultants exterior the business – from tutorial analysis establishments to agile and experimental start-ups – to develop plant-based meals breakthroughs and reveal that innovation within the business could be each revolutionary and quick.”

6. Artisan merchandise to develop from power to power

Final 12 months was (properly, for not less than 9 months) fairly boring. Regardless of it seeming like one thing new was occurring nearly day by day, a lot of the days blended into one. As lockdowns spill over into 2021, many people have regarded to our plates and glasses to offer small pleasures, whether or not that be handmade cheese as a particular deal with or a G&T contemporary from a small distillery within the Scottish islands.

Although some individuals could not really feel comfy consuming in any form of restaurant setting, they’ll nonetheless wish to recreate these genuine meals experiences at residence.

With little or no to do besides eat and store, artisan producers might see 2021 as their massive 12 months, as shoppers search to fill the restaurant-shaped gap of their life.

“Whereas shopper demand for craft and artisanal meals has steadily elevated over the previous years, we’ll see accelerated development on this house as shoppers search to brighten up their pandemic pantries with genuine substances and hand-crafted meals,” stated Wystrach.

“Although some individuals could not really feel comfy consuming in any form of restaurant setting, they’ll nonetheless wish to recreate these genuine meals experiences at residence. Whether or not this comes within the type of individuals shopping for substances on-line or putting orders for ready-made meals there, there is a chance for manufacturers to extend manufacturing on this sector to fulfill altering shopper tastes and preferences.”

7. Digital acceleration – extra to return

This pandemic period has taught us many issues and amidst all of the negatives there have been optimistic change and a newfound appreciation for some issues (corresponding to our meals sector) too. It has additionally accelerated sure tendencies which have been undoubtedly coming to the fore…albeit a lot slower. Because the globe continues to gripple with the challenges of Covid, and within the UK we’re plunged into lockdown #3, the digital period has by no means been extra appreciated or wanted.

Companies which haven’t but tailored should achieve this as a way to survive. At New Meals, we solely foresee expertise turning into extra vital over the following few years. Whether or not it’s an integration of digital and bodily inspections sooner or later, the usage of blockchain to higher hint provides and stop fraud, augmented restaurant menus, or cultured meat, we’re solely simply on the cusp of the ‘Expertise Age’.

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