Unsealing Food Technology to Feed the World

We have the technology to rebuild the food system. But do we have the will to do so?
Oct 31, 2017 8:25 AM ET
Summary: 

Authored by Karl Deily, Sealed Air Food Care President 

 

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In 2004, Blockbuster had 60,000 employees, 9,000 stores worldwide and $5.9 billion in revenue. But Blockbuster became too comfortable with their success and failed to adapt to the upcoming consumer demands of the video market. 

Meanwhile, competitors were aggressively exploring new ways to bring video to consumers. The market shifted toward on-demand video streaming leaving Blockbuster as a footnote in history.

Successful companies continually look for future opportunities and are adaptable enough to invest in the technology to drive growth and transformation. Companies must innovate to stay competitive in today's economy – the food and beverage industry is a prime example. 

The single greatest opportunity that food executives have to drive profits and address growing resource concerns is food waste. The United States alone spends $218 billion each year growing, processing and transporting food that is never eaten. And that financial impact is felt throughout the supply chain: farms lose $15 billion, manufacturers lose $2 billion, and consumer-facing businesses lose $57 billion. The other $144 billion is incurred by consumers who pay retail prices for the food. 

Reducing food waste by just 20 percent could create $100 billion in economic value over ten years and reduce annual water use by 1.6 trillion gallons, according to the 2016 ReFED report.  

One of the challenges food companies face is how to maximize food quality and safety while also balancing the many costs associated with managing operations. Consumers demand high quality food products at lower prices. Meanwhile, the costs related to production and resources needed are rising. How can we optimize performance without compromising food safety and quality?

As in the video delivery market, technology capabilities in the food industry are growing at a rapid pace, challenging this conventional notion. These advances are building to once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for transformative change in our food system. 

What if we could capture and analyze data that would enable us to predict consumer demand and adjust our food production for better yields? What if we could track the location and temperature of our products across the food supply chain to prevent food spoilage? What about monitoring the health of our livestock to prevent a contagious disease from spreading in herds? 

We can now. Sensor and auditing technology has become more sophisticated over the past decade, not only capturing data points but also communicating with other systems to automate solutions. The internet of things is revolutionizing the food industry. 

New services now allow multiple users to monitor key performance indicators on lines, within packaging rooms, within packaging plants and the ability to compare data and benchmarks at different locations. The technology discovers inefficiencies that would otherwise be hidden among the tremendous amounts of data being collected. Once discovered, they can be managed and fixed in real-time.

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