Food Futures #DoBusinessUnusual

WRAP

3Keel was commissioned by WRAP to work alongside their team to identify the key trends and areas of innovation in the UK food system from 2015 to 2025. Through a process of horizon scanning, stakeholder events, interviews and desk-based research, WRAP and the 3Keel team analysed 15 priority topics ranging from ‘Alternative feeds and proteins’ to ‘Unlocking new value from wastes. The resulting Food Futures report, which was launched at WRAP’s annual conference, recommends practical actions that food businesses and policy-makers can take to increase supply chain resilience, exploit new developments in food chain data and leverage the synergies between health and sustainability agendas. The report, a separate references document and a short animated film introducing some of the issues covered by the report are available  at: http://www.wrap.org.uk/foodfutures

The global food system is becoming an ever more complex environment for business and policymakers. WRAP commissioned 3Keel to help them unpick some of the key trends and issues to look out for over the next decade. The report, which makes extensive use of bespoke graphics, was produced in collaboration with WRAP, Richard Scott Design, Dragon Rouge and ETANTE.

The research included 3 distinct elements: The first was a horizon-scanning process, during which a diverse range of sources were reviewed to identify areas of future concern and innovation across the food system. During the second phase a Thought Leadership Group of food and drink sector experts was convened by WRAP. During two workshops, 3Keel facilitated sessions where attendees filtered and prioritised the 152 topics and trends identified in horizon scanning to select those of most importance to the future food system. The main output of these sessions was the selection of 15 priority topics and 3 key trends for further research and analysis. Finally, in-depth research was conducted into the priority topics and trends by the research team. This included literature 
reviews and further expert interviews.

The results of the research formed the basis for illustrating the interdependencies and future trajectories of the fifteen topics. In the Food Futures report, each topic establishes its critical relevance to the future of the food system and presents key risks, opportunities and existing examples of innovation. Three crosscutting trends also emerged from this process as priorities for business leaders and policymakers:

  • Increasing challenges to food system resilience: By 2025 the food system is expected to be experiencing the initial squalls of John Beddington’s “Perfect Storm” of energy, water and food shortages. And by 2040, we could see a tripling of the risk of a major food production shock, leading to food shortages, price rises and volatility, public unrest and national export restrictions or bans.
  • Explosion in data-enabled technology: The growth in ‘smart’ technology is driving a revolution in how the entire food system operates, from a better understanding of land resources to automated factories and kitchens. Data-enabled technology is becoming cheaper and more accessible all the time, but the food system has yet to fully capitalise on the benefits these technologies can unlock.
  • Alignment of health and sustainability agendas: The potential to create more concrete links between food system sustainability and public health and nutrition are of increasing interest to policymakers, businesses and civil society. If obesity rates and diet-related ill-health rise as predicted, with the resultant costs to society and the health system, a wider coalition of interests need to come together to ensure a joined-up policy and business response.

These trends were used as a framework for prioritising the steps we need to take toward a healthier, more sustainable society: create supply chains that are ‘FIT’ for the future (i.e. flexible, intelligent and transparent); invest in food chain data capabilities; and promote innovation and consumer engagement on health and sustainability. In short, the report identifies that the present UK food system was built for an era that has passed, and that businesses and policymakers will have to adapt and respond to new and rapidly evolving economic, environmental and social realities.

 

 

Since the launch of the report at WRAP’s conference in November 2015 it has received praise from industry, NGOs and researchers, and has generated positive coverage across mainstream and trade press (for example The Times, The Grocer and Sustainable Brands). Social media reaction from key opinion formers has been positive too (see comments below from Judith Batchelar (Director of Sainsbury's Brand) and Louise Nicholls (Head of Responsible Sourcing at Marks & Spencer)).

 

You can read more about the research and its key conclusions at: http://www.wrap.org.uk/foodfutures and join the conversation on Twitter #DoBusinessUnusual

Project lead

Richard Sheane