Food processing

Earth is reaching its expiration date. Better food processing and packaging can help restore its health – The European Sting – Critical News & Insights on European Politics, Economy, Foreign Affairs, Business & Technology

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This article is brought to you through The European Sting’s collaboration with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Lars Holmquist, Executive Vice President, Sustainability and Communications, Tetra Pak


  • The world currently wastes a third of all food produced.
  • The food processing and packaging industry can help transform food systems.
  • Food packaging can take many approaches to a more sustainable supply chain.

The latest report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) represents code red for our global food systems. Stating that global temperature, which rose by 1.1°C between 1850 and 1900, is expected to reach or exceed 1.5°C Celsius of warming, report warns of overlapping risks in energy sectors , food and water, creating a dire future for global food. systems.

This rise in temperature would reduce global yields of corn, rice and, potentially, other cereal crops, while negatively affecting the quality of animal feed, the spread of disease and the availability of water resources for livestock, each increase of 0.5°C to lead to more frequent and more intense changes. agricultural droughts.

Ironically, our global food systems themselves are partly responsible for the current situation, accounting for more than a third of global greenhouse gas emissions. With the world’s population expected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050, demand for food continues to grow, but the world is currently wasting a third of the food it produces due to inefficient production and conservation practices due to the lack of infrastructure in developing and developed countries. unsustainable consumption practices.

These glaring inefficiencies reveal a toxic and unsustainable relationship between our global food systems and the planet, amounting to some $12 trillion in hidden costs each year, which far exceeds the market value of agricultural products.

Solutions without borders

Although food production and environmental conservation have always been at odds, only by working together and finding common ground can we enable the global transformation of food systems to better manage this dangerous cycle.

Global challenges and crises know no borders and require international cooperation and multilateral responses to food system issues. From farmers and processors to packers, distributors and consumers around the world, we need to rethink the way we approach, produce and consume food to adhere to the “Planetary Health Diet”. These shared approaches are especially critical as the world moves into the era of post-pandemic recovery.

Growing demand for food leads to increased GHG emissions, but much of the food is wasted.
Growing demand for food leads to increased GHG emissions, but much of the food is wasted. Image: Statista

To face this immense challenge, we must think strategically and creatively, looking beyond existing frameworks to reinvent food production processes and use more sustainable and innovative models.

To show what this could look like in the food processing and packaging industries, here are three solutions focused on greener food systems for the future:

1. Adopting a low-carbon circular economy

As a global community, we face the challenge of minimizing the environmental impact of packaging while maximizing food safety and protection. Global food players must drive innovation on end-of-life materials and solutions through collaborative approaches, designing processes that reduce or eliminate this carbon footprint.

Although recycling is an important part of the solution, it is not enough. Ultimately, the only way to sustainably meet the food and nutritional needs of our growing population for generations to come is to embrace a low-carbon, circular economy.

Throughout human existence, increasing consumption and economic growth have led to the depletion of natural resources. The circular economy takes us away from this model towards a system where we use the resources that are already in the value chain. The low-carbon circular economy goes further, also considering the climate impact of raw materials and the manufacturing value chain.

Continued innovation in food packaging and processing will go beyond recycling to consider the broader, long-term environmental impact of a product.

2. Shelf-stable ambient solutions that keep food safe

World hunger is on the rise, but it is estimated that a third of all food produced in the world is lost or wasted. Not only does food waste lead to food insecurity, it is the number one item by volume that enters landfills, creating methane gas and driving 8% of global warming emissions. To mitigate food waste and fight malnutrition in developing countries, packaging solutions that keep food fresh longer are imperative.

Tetra Pak has pioneered aseptic processing and packaging solutions with this in mind, leveraging the sterilization process to extend product shelf life and keep food safe without the need for preservatives or refrigeration. Shelf-stable ambient solutions that keep food safe not only help reduce carbon footprints, but also reduce food waste and enable food-insecure regions to store and access food Longer. https://open.spotify.com/embed/episode/3xXPUK2lcPYjf4UGykEfOC?utm_source=generator

3. Increase supply chain transparency and traceability

Today’s supply chains are tight and rigid. As global food systems account for more than a third of global greenhouse gas emissions, an increased focus on transparency and traceability will help deliver safe, nutritious and healthy food in a sustainable way, reducing operational risks and increasing supply chain resilience.

From sourcing and manufacturing to transportation and consumption, only with visibility into every step of the supply chain can companies improve their overall sustainability. To give an example, Unilever has done some very promising work in this area using geospatial analytics in its procurement to predict the possibility of problems, such as deforestation, and take action.

Tetra Pak is bringing this transparency to the packaging and food processing industry with its “connected packaging”. Launched in 2019 and currently exceeding 2 billion, they are each tagged with a unique digital barcode, effectively turning parcels into data carriers. This digitization enables end-to-end traceability for producers, greater supply chain transparency for retailers, and access to information for consumers. Food

What is the World Economic Forum doing to help ensure global food security?

Two billion people in the world are currently malnourished and according to some estimates we need 60% more food to feed the world’s population by 2050. Yet the agricultural sector is ill-equipped to meet this demand: 700 million of its workers currently live in poverty, and it is already responsible for 70% of global water consumption and 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

New technologies could help our food systems become more sustainable and efficient, but unfortunately the agricultural sector has lagged behind other sectors in terms of technology adoption.

Launched in 2018, the Forum’s Innovation with a Purpose platform is a large-scale partnership that facilitates the adoption of new technologies and other innovations to transform the way we produce, distribute and consume our food.

With research, increased investment in new agricultural technologies, and integration of local and regional initiatives to strengthen food security, the platform works with more than 50 partner institutions and 1,000 leaders around the world to leverage emerging technologies to make our food systems more sustainable, inclusive and efficient.

Learn more about the impact of Innovation with a Purpose and contact us to see how you can get involved.

Agriculture and food are the fastest way to optimize human health and environmental sustainability. This new IPCC report puts additional pressure on the food industry to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. We hope he will harness his many potential partnerships and innovation to reform and ultimately save our global food systems.