James Arnold, MD of SQF, unpacks the essential ingredients for a sustainable future for the food industry.
As consumers become more sophisticated in what they eat, then so the ingredients industry has had to respond.
The main trends in our industry now revolve around safe, healthy authentic foods, with reduced salt and sugar and a move towards flavour derived from herbs and spices that leave the consumer feeling fuller for longer. We are also seeing a big drive towards vegetarian and plant-based foods as a diverse society begins to bring a host of new diet and cuisine styles.
These issues are all important parts of a wider drive towards sustainability in the ingredients industry – and wider food sector. Consumers now want to know where the products they buy come from. It’s important to remember that this isn’t just a straightforward environmental issue; it encompasses ethical trading and fair prices for farmers across the globe and means that we have incorporated a truly transparent ‘field to fork’ traceability ethos into our company.
The ingredients industry should now realise that we should all be working towards a sustainable future, and that includes ensuring that farmers and workers in factories, wherever they’re located in the world, have a safe working environment and fair pay. Demand from customers is ensuring that the life of the farmer is better – and that’s sustainability in action.
Recycling also remains high on the priority list for ingredient suppliers and at Sleaford Quality Foods we’ve unveiled a pledge to ensure all our packaging is recyclable or compostable by 2022. We’ve also recently strengthened our commitment to sustainability after revealing we will convert all our plastic packaging from black to white. Again, this has been driven by consumer demand for a more sustainable future and it’s pleasing to see the industry is reacting to it – but we must go even further and exceed these targets and set new ones if we are to become truly sustainable as an industry.
In the future, food safety and transparency will become watchwords for the ingredients industry. Financial, political and environmental forces will have a substantial impact on these and the industry must look towards securing a sustainable supply of raw materials from the farmers it works with.
We will also change the way we work with our customers – many of whom are now demanding paperless transactions and faster information on prices and – again – greater transparency in their supply chain. Already we are seeing Ebay-style auctions for procurement become more popular with larger companies and we need to be agile to respond to this.
It’s imperative, then, that we become more transparent as an industry if we are to continue to thrive and remain competitive. Sleaford Quality Foods benefits from having our own factories within Jain, our parent group, and this gives us an edge in the ‘farm to fork’ process. This 360-degree view of the supply chain will become even more important as customers and consumers demand more – and the industry needs to be ready to meet the challenge.