The global food, fibre and drink industry is in the dock! What’s the charge? Threatening the health and well-being of:
- The Planet – issues relating to sustainability, climate change, resource conservation, biodiversity, etc.;
- Consumers – food safety scares and perception that, on the epidemic of obesity, the food and drink industry is part of the problem and not part of the solution;
- Supply chain participants – big corporations are bullying smaller suppliers and their workers;
- Animals in agriculture – at least, in intensive livestock production, where animal welfare standards are criticised
Who’s making these charges? Special interest groups, consumer-citizens and low- and high-brow media particularly in North America and Northern Europe. Influential authors include Michael Pollan, David Kessler and Eric Schlosser. The implications for the industry are profound and, without a doubt, “The Green train has Left the Station” (see podcast)! Those most under scrutiny are the big brand players – both manufacturers and retailers. They have the most to lose, i.e. the reputation of their brands. Complete transparency in the supply chain, even down to micro-ingredients, will be essential. Those that provide inputs to final products will need to understand and be in concert with the values that the big brands stand for. From an industry perspective, we need to increase dialogue with those special interest groups that are willing to listen to a point of view other than their own. The extremist don’t want to and won’t listen! Those that represent our industry and its sectors should be “First Team” material – people who can talk with passion and authority on why we do what we do. The opposition does not put out their second team. In short, the food industry needs to be on the front foot and not characterising itself as being “the victim”, constantly on the defensive. We’ve got great stories and consumers need to hear them more often.