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Why do you think the new generation of businesses are so passionate about food waste? What’s changed?
Given the need for meaningful action on two of today’s biggest global issues: climate change and social inequality, it is simply no longer acceptable to allow approximately one third of all produced food go to waste. Unsurprisingly, the quantity of water, energy, land and other inputs required in food production means food waste is now widely understood to be one of the biggest drivers behind climate change. Increased visibility into the scale of this problem, where such a high proportion of resources are misdirected at the same time as 800 million people globally go hungry, is inspiring change. The responsibility we have to find ways of redesigning the system for the better naturally makes it a challenge that entrepreneurs are very passionate about tackling.
Has consumer demand changed at the same speed as the evolution of businesses? If so/not, why?
Consumer demand is evolving all the time, and many businesses are at the forefront of driving this trend – you can see this in the success of restaurant delivery platforms and online grocery as well as underlying health and wellness preferences, like the growing demand for plant-based alternatives. The result is that consumers’ standards are continuously increasing – they want better food, faster and more conveniently. Some of the larger, more established companies are having to rethink their strategies in order to keep up, and there is still a lot of headroom for changing how food is produced and distributed, before it reaches the consumer.
Why is it important that the food industry continues to evolve in this way?
Ultimately, food is integral to all of us, so developing solutions which means the system as a whole creates access to nutritious, affordable food which is economically viable for producers and sustainable for the planet is essential.
What support is out there for businesses keen to be part of this movement?
The food sector is attracting a lot of interest from entrepreneurs, investors and large corporates alike. This has created fantastic opportunities for connecting different stakeholders in the system to develop the next generation of products and technologies for the industry! Communities like FoodBytes! by Rabobank, a global pitch competition and networking event, bring together a large network of startups, food companies and funders and give early stage companies access to knowledge, advice and connections that are critical to getting an idea off the ground. FoodBytes! is actually coming to London and Europe for the first time this September – it will be a fantastic opportunity for startups innovating in the space of food waste and sustainability.
What do you think is next for the industry and start-up businesses?
The increased attention on food; where it comes from, how it is produced and the choices on offer to consumers are going to continue to drive new entrepreneurs and growth in the market. This wave of innovation is likely to reinforce attention on the sector and prompt big industry players to seek ways of innovating in order to keep up with changing consumer preferences and market competition. Digital communication has placed companies, their operations and their products under greater scrutiny, and in the long run technology has the capacity to span across the whole food cycle, increasing integration and transparency from the field to consumers’ homes.
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