Food execs converge for European Sustainable Foods Summit

Food execs converge for European Sustainable Foods Summit

Over 100 senior executives from across the food industry debated sustainability issues over two days at the European edition of the Sustainable Foods Summit.

In his keynote, Professor Michael Braungart of EPEA International Umweltforschung, urged food companies to go beyond traditional efficiency thinking.

Citing examples of deforestation for agriculture, plastic islands and diminishing air quality, he said traditional design structures were flawed. Instead, he believed the way forward is product design for effectiveness.

TZervice founder Tom Zoeller called for investment in urban farming. With half of the global population now living in urban areas, he said there were opportunities for retailers and foodservice operators in this emerging fields.

Adrian de Groot Ruiz and Tobias Bandel presented findings on the ‘true’ cost of food and beverage products. Although awareness of the externalities of agricultural products was rising, more pressure was required on food companies.

The two speakers said higher adoption rates of sustainable foods were necessary to narrow the ‘externality gap’ with conventional products.

TheRockGroup’s Elfrike van Galen looked at how the food industry can prepare for a circular economy.

Apart from finding new applications for food waste, she said there were opportunities with aquaponics, plant-based packaging and social fridges.

Jessica Sansom of Innocent Drinks said sustainable packaging remained a thorny area for the smoothies company; it was using recyclable plastic in attempt to close its packaging loops.

The Food Ingredients session began with a paper n traceability in food supply chains. According to Andy Green from Cert ID, risks of food safety and fraud were increasing in global supply chains.

Givuadan gave an update on natural flavourings, whilst Palsgaard showed how the company is making emulsifies for sustainability.

Chr. Hansen CEO Cees de Jong called for great recognition of the role of bacteria. In one of the liveliest presentations at the summit, he said bacteria were on of the first microorganisms on our planet.

Bacteria now play an important role in sustainable agriculture, as well as improving gut health. According to Jong, each of our bodies carry around 2kg of bacteria, yet only recently scientists have realised the health problems caused by the loss of good bacterial.

Jong believes the future is with bacterial solutions for our general health and wellbeing.

Alistair Davis from Olam International gave an overview of sustainability certification schemes for agricultural commodities.

He showed that adoption rates of such schemes was increasing, however demand was lagging supply. For example, almost half of all coca is now produced sustainable, yet demand remained significantly lower.

The second day of the summit was opened by Dr Kanayo F Nwanze, former President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development.

In his keynote, he called for greater support to agricultural smallholdings if the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals are to be achieved.

He said 90% of the world’s farms have less than 10 hectares. These farms play an important role in sustainable farming and maintaining rural communities.

The sustainability challenges faced by retailers were expressed by Delia Gracia Gomex from El Corte Ingles.

Europe’s largest department store chain has introduced a sustainability manifesto to ensure suppliers meet its ethical and environmental criteria.

The final session explored various ways food and ingredient firms can address their social impacts.

Veronica Rubio from the Foreign Trade Association gave an overview o the social risks faced by companies in their supply chains.

Asia Pulp & Paper said the company is taking a multi-stakeholder approach by setting up the Belantara Foundation in Indonesia.

Monique Marez from the Organic Trade Association highlighted the social and economic benefits organic farming was having on American Communities.

Fair Trade Original gave details of some of its pioneering fair trade projects in Asia. The social enterprise was growing and processing its food products in Asia to create maximum value for growers.

Throughout the summit, there were several references to the news that US President Trump was pulling the US out of the Paris Climate Accord.

In his closing keynote, Amarjit Sahota, founder of Ecovia Intelligence, called for the private sector to take the lead for climate change.