DENVER. — At the Cereals & Grains Association (CGA)’s annual conference, held Nov. 3-5 in Denver, Marc Cwikowski, founder and director, All Food Consulting, tackled the current challenges facing the food industry in his discussion “Food Industry Trends & Their Future Impact.”
“Some say there will be more changes in the food industry in the next 10 years than the past 30, and that makes things very exciting,” he said, kicking off the conversation by painting the picture of the current state of the world impacting the food industry.
Global booming populations demand more and more food while at the same time more than one-third of food is lost or wasted according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (F.A.O.).
“Thirty per cent of cereals are lost while at the same time 820 million people go to bed hungry every night, and they’re not all in Africa or Asia,” Mr. Cwikowski said. “They’re in Belgium, the U.S. and the U.K., too.”
On top of this, he said 23% of global green house gas emissions are attributed to food systems, and agriculture’s contribution to that number has doubled in the past 50 years. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (N.O.A.A.) reported that 16 of the 17 hottest years on record have occurred since 2000.
Consumers are adopting new technology faster than ever before, leading to extreme convenience and personalization.
“Where once I used to go to the supermarket once a week, now I might go to the supermarket for some things, but I might also visit a bakery or a local farmer,” Mr. Cwikowski explained. “We can decide whether we want to purchase raw ingredients to cook everything or buy fully prepped meals. We can have groceries delivered straight to our house.”
The explosion in new technology is happening in agriculture, too. With innovations like vertical farming, hydroponics, drones, IoT and others, farmers are improving yields and reducing losses. However, agriculture still struggles in the job market. Mr. Cwikowski said agriculture made up 60% of jobs in the United States during 1850. In 2015 that number was only 3%.
These external forces are changing the way consumers buy food and the way food is produced, all the way at the agricultural level. Against this backdrop of change, Mr. Cwikowski turned the conversation over to the audience, members of the Cereals & Grains Association, to talk about ways the association could help address issues of food waste, consumer education, demand for plant-based proteins, environmental stress, healthy and sustainable diets, recruiting people to the industry, and new technology.
Much of the ensuing conversation focused on consumer education and recruiting people to the industry, two issues whose proposed solutions often went hand in hand.
Many in the audience brought up the issue that consumer demands often seem rooted in in misinformation or a lack of understanding how agriculture and the rest of food production works. Some proposed that teaching young people, through the school system or even social media, how to garden and cook could help give consumers the appreciation for how much work goes into making food.
Partnerships with other organizations were proposed, such as the International Food Information Council (IFIC) or the Future Farmers of America (F.F.A.). By partnering with organizations like IFIC, CGA could provide its scientific content to those with expertise in reaching the consumer in a dynamic way. Sponsoring events with F.F.A. could give the Cereals & Grains Association visibility among young people already interested in agriculture and food science.
With these ideas and many more shared throughout the discussion portion of the event, one thing became clear to Mr. Cwikowksi, which he pointed out in his closing.
“It’s important that the divisions in CGA talk to each other and collaborate if we want to win in the future,” he said.