Food Industry Supply Chain is Hungry for change

Contributed by: Gideon Hillman Consulting Ltd.

 

The global supply chain is under increasing pressure from new demands, fuelled by technological advances and the decidedly critical consumer; barraging logistics processes to adapt to the effervescent era of pandering to consumer demands, as opposed to procuring profitability margins.

One very important sector which is feeling the pinch more so than others is the Food Industry.

UKWA recently conducted a nine-month research project which explored the current struggles of the food industry in the Capital and cities across the UK. Aptly named ‘Feeding London 2030’ it explored the treacherous trend of the ever-growing demand for food and the impact that ecommerce and the increasing demands of the consumer have on the food industry; in turn predicting how this may affect the global supply chain and more directly the ‘global food-chain’ in the next 30 years if a sustainable system for the continuous provision of food is not effectively enrolled.

The modern food industry is a multifaceted international process, involving manufacturers, distributors and retailers alike; with the global food industry supply chain in increasingly high demand from food retailers, wholesalers, markets, hospitality and food services.

Awareness of the ever-growing population, has sparked predictions that over the next 15 years, the Capital could reach a new capacity of 10 million; UKWA reports there could be an estimated additional 1.5 billion mouths to feed. With those figures looming, and reports of increasing global competition for food, the question on everyone’s lips is, what is the best plan of action to sustainably feed the Capital and growing cities throughout the UK, now and in the future.

The days of retailers and restaurants relying on ‘regular’ customers, and their recurrent purchases and orders are proving ever more elusive, following the introduction of longer working hours, ever-changing shift patterns, increased free-time and spending power; A new breed of consumer has been cultivated.

An increasing need to eat on the move, and growing expectations of having the choice of where, when and what to eat, has meant that pressure is being put on the global food chain to provide the necessary products to fuel fast food outlets, convenience stores, take-away chains, and the provision of ready-meals in supermarkets. In turn, retailers are being coerced into adapting to a seemingly more customer-orientated society.

“We’re seeing that consumers’ use of technology for their shopping is only increasing their expectations of the retailer, which is in turn pushing the retailer to be more innovative in the way it engages with and services its customers”. CEO of Logistics Specialist Fowler Welch, Nick Hay.

As more and more tech savvy consumers, start to shape the swiftly evolving ‘food-chain’, it seems that the only way for the food industry to survive, is for suppliers and manufacturers alike to develop existing, and introduce new technologies, in any effort to remain successful in this demanding industry.

“The “new consumer” has high expectations about choice of what to eat, when to eat and where to eat: this reflecting new lifestyles and working patterns. Grocery retailers and caterers therefore promote new food formats or cuisines, in new locations, and across a range of price points. But while London’s estimated 75,000 food outlets may be convenient for the consumer they are often difficult for food and drink delivery”. Chief Executive UKWA, Peter Ward.

There have, however, been keen developments in supplychain technology, concerning data analysis, collaboration, consolidation, distribution and warehouse efficiency; with new technologies quickly improving communication and collaboration across all operations of the supply chain, in turn increasing the efficiency of logistics processes.

Predictions of the future status of the food industry and the continued pressures on the supply chain, are all that can be supplied for now. With the confounding variable of the increasing population of the Capital and surrounding UK cities, it cannot be stated for certain what the future will hold.

“Urban planners, food businesses and logistics operators, need to begin to derive holistic solutions that exploit smart city technology”. Chief Executive UKWA, Peter Ward.

One thing for certain is that with food production being an industrialized practice alongside the globalization of the trade and distribution of food produce; a sustainable plan of action addressing how to sustainably feed growing cities throughout the UK, now and in the future needs to be implemented and maintained; based on the projections for population growth and the already prominent pressures on global supply chain, and more specifically the Food Industry.

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