Because of an increase in consumer desire for healthy and safe food, the global food supply chain is shifting towards implementing sustainable practices. Protecting the environment by reducing emissions, conserving water, and utilizing green solutions has been in the national conversation for quite some time.
With this growing consumer need for traceability in real time and an increase in environmental awareness and climate change, many businesses are listening. All across the United States, operations are implementing sustainable practices to avoid food waste by utilizing new technologies, water conservation, and reducing emissions.
This has helped to grow the bottom line, improve risk management, improve food security, attract new customers, and protect the planet. Read ahead to learn about sustainability and other concerns facing the global food supply chain.
Problems Facing the Global Food Supply Chain
Food conservation and reducing waste are important for the global supply chain to ensure consumers receive a nutritious and safe supply of food items. Canning, freezing, and other modern practices have multiplied the type of products that can be sustained for long periods.
Advancements in technology that chills or stores items in a controlled atmosphere package allow fresh vegetables and fruits to be delivered at relatively inexpensive prices. All of these mechanisms have helped to optimize the food supply chain and ensure safety during food production.
On the other hand, there are still many problems plaguing the industry. The COVID pandemic has disrupted elements of the chain, particularly for grocers, restaurants, and consumers.
Improper packaging or implementing incorrect temperature controls can lead to contamination, foodborne illnesses, or even an outbreak. A lack of communication among actors can also lead to untimely deliveries, lost items, and waste. For these reasons, operators must continue to make improvements that encourage sustainability and food safety.
Here are the top problems facing the food supply chain and how businesses are improving supply chain management-
1. Increased Demand for Traceability
The increase in consumer need for organic food, food safety, and traceability is only growing stronger as time passes. Consumers want food operators to be transparent in everything from ingredient breakdowns to sourcing data. Brand loyalty increases for organizations that take transparency and traceability seriously.
Other high-end consumers want to make certain that operators consider environmental concerns when growing and harvesting their products. Because of the consumer need for quality data, businesses are recognizing the long term significance of meeting this demand.
Operators that want to attract customers and keep their current customers satisfied need to improve their traceability and ensure suppliers are following protocols that promote sustainability in food supply chains.
2. Need for More Legislation
Though there has been an increase in regulations to protect consumers and implement food safety practices, there is still a need for improvements. Unfortunately, legislators have been focused more on safety rather than food fraud as a legitimate threat.
Organized crime has infiltrated the food industry, making it easier for drugs or other illegal contraband to enter the country through counterfeit food imports. In other circumstances, organizations are not following all food safety and logistics rules, potentially putting consumers at risk.
Thankfully, there are newer technologies that ensure every participant in the food supply chain documents and shares their interactions with each food item. If companies can invest in these technologies while Congress introduces legislation to further fight fraud, there can be significant improvements in the industry.
3. Lack of Communication
In the past, people retrieved most of their food locally. The rise of globalization, changes in technology, and improvements in health have changed the entire supply chain. Now, participants all over the world are involved in growing, harvesting, distributing, and shipping our food products.
Though this has improved quality and increased access to the food supply, it has also decreased communication among participants. Stakeholders must prioritize supplier communication by implementing tracking systems or working with trustworthy suppliers. This will help maintain each organization's reputation and prevent bottlenecks/irregularities before they happen.
Sustainability in the Global Food Supply Chain
Sustainability helps to prevent the depletion of resources to maintain environmental and ecological balance around the world. More companies are invested in marketing themselves as sustainable to improve their reputation and attract health-conscious/environmentally-aware consumers.
Each part of the supply chain can do its part to maintain sustainability. Some farmers are now utilizing water conservation, renewable sources of energy, or even vertical farming to improve sustainability.
A benefit to vertical farming is that it does not depend on weather conditions, as crops can grow indoors under selective conditions. This also eliminates the need for fossil fuels to fertilize and weed outdoor crops.
Unfortunately, sustainable farming can be costlier.
This increases the price of food, which is passed on to consumers. Furthermore, water conservation continues to be a problem, as water is still needed in vertical farming or other forms of sustainable operations. Conserving water has become the next big problem for those wanting to use sustainable practices in the supply chain.
Improving irrigation methods through technology can help to save water. One solution includes installing spray irrigation systems, which help to save about 25 percent of water. Other technology systems are used to collect data that measures moisture levels in the ground. Water can then only be turned when it's truly needed, rather than at random intervals.
Transportation is also another problem, as vehicles/fleets increase the carbon footprint and add to emissions. Technologies have been employed to collect data that helps maximize efficiency and avoid wasted stops.
They can also help refrigerate items at exactly the correct temperature rather than having to use guesswork and possibly wasting more energy than needed.
Investments in conservation and sustainability may be expensive, but they can help save money over time. Less water, fuel, and energy sources utilized help operators save millions of dollars a year.
Furthermore, as more and more consumers are looking for sustainable organizations to purchase their food from, businesses can market their sustainable practices to increase profits and grow their consumer base.
In conclusion, here are the key takeaways to remember about sustainability and other problems faced by the global supply chain-
- Ensuring sustainability is essential to increase profits, decrease food insecurity, protect the environment, and ensure consumers receive safe and healthy food.
- Some of the big problems facing the supply chain include increased demand for traceability, the need for more legislation, and a lack of communication.
- Implementing sustainability faces several challenges, including water conservation, transport waste, and cost. Technology solutions can help to optimize sustainability practices and collect valuable data that helps to minimize inefficiencies.