What Is Future Food 21
Future Food 21 is an Association pillar with a focus on increasing awareness of “future food” trends in the 21st Century to foster entrepreneurship and new market opportunities to existing processors in the way of healthy food processing, as well as, to promote sustainable practices in manufacturing including energy, water, and waste reduction. While most larger food processors have the resources, staffing, expertise, and philosophy to incorporate these trends into their operations with many already being recognized as having best practices, small to medium-sized typically do not. The challenge is best practices at large companies are often viewed as competitive and proprietary so not easily identified or shared. The WMFPA is committed to the Future Food 21 pillars and is establishing a process to “build a bridge to sustainability and healthy food practices in the food processing industry beginning in 2022.
Healthy Food Processing
A recent study* published in PLOS medicine suggests that poor eating habits cost the United States about $300 per person, or $50 billion, a year and accounted for 18% of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes costs. Changes in people’s dietary habits can make a huge difference according to the study’s authors, but there is also a role for the food processing industry to help lead the way to a healthier country and the world.
Recent trends suggest that American consumers, especially those younger than 25, are looking for food products that offer convenience, but healthy. Those afflicted with heart disease, diabetes, autoimmune disease and other forms of illness are also looking for healthier food options.
Sustainable Energy Practices
The food processing sector is one of the most energy intense industries in the United States with some studies suggesting (www.chooseenergy.com) the processing portion of the overall industry accounts for over 15% of the “Energy in Food Production” cycle and growing. Food processing executives are faced with balancing the quality of their product with production technology options and the cost of running their core business. The challenge is identifying the right measures to implement to reduce their energy cost exposure to include operational steps and technology modifications, energy efficiency steps, renewable energy options, or a combination of the methods. Some companies may be considering a “zero net energy” strategy which essentially is using various measures to operate free of the electric grid for the majority of the time. The Association has ties to the energy experts that can help the sector address these issues.
Sustainable Packaging and Waste Reduction
Packaging performs multiple roles including product safety and security, shelf life, branding, and distribution among other aspects. In 2016, a group of philanthropists, nonprofits, corporations, and other supporters produced a report outlining a roadmap to reduce U.S. food waste by 20%.** The report suggests that 40% of food is wasted globally which equals to roughly 400 pounds annually for every American. The report further states up to 25 percent of residential food waste is due to packaging size or design.
One of the report’s recommendations is that spoilage prevention packaging, or packaging that extends shelf-life, and packaging adjustments that enable complete consumption are capable of diverting 280,000 tons of food waste, with an economic value of $882 million. The Association is committed to working with packaging and other sustainability experts to help West Michigan food processors work toward more sustainable packaging and waste reduction in the sector.
Future Food 21 Conferences
Beginning in the fall of 2021, the Association organized and hosted the first Future Food 21 conference featuring topics that aligned with current trends in the industry. With the changing public health conditions, the WMFPA hosted a series of breakout webinars from September 24, 2021 to December 14, 2021. The conference webinars included expert speakers who will bring to light what is behind each of the trends and what the industry can expect in the way of challenges and potential opportunities. The WMFPA plans to organize Future Food 21 Conferences in the future as in-person day-long events or potentially as webinars. The 2021 Conference Webinar Series with recordings of each breakout session is found under this Future Food Tab of the website.
* Cardiometabolic disease costs associated with suboptimal diet in the United States: A cost analysis based on a microsimulation model. https://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1002981
** A ROADMAP TO REDUCE U.S. FOOD WASTE BY 20 PERCENT. https://www.refed.com/?sort=economic-value-per-ton