5 Ways to Untangle the Food Supply Chain

The food supply chain includes several steps in which food journeys from the farmers to consumers. It is a network of various actors at individual stages that produce and deliver a final product to meet customers’ demands. Researchers continually investigate and analyze this supply chain and look for ways to improve efficiencies, reduce waste, and avoid food insecurities. 

However, several factors determine why food supply chains have experienced challenges over the last few years. While the pandemic certainly didn’t help, the real issues had to deal with situations. 

For instance, before the pandemic, stakeholders would save money in operating costs by not keeping back stocks. Not only did they not keep any extra inventory of their products, but they also didn’t stock up on items needed to produce their brand’s food or beverage items. 

Researchers have discovered that staple food crops will decline by a third by 2050 (due to several factors). Ultimately, this will lead to issues at a far greater scale than the world experienced during the pandemic. The only question now is what customers and brands can do to combat these issues and untangle the food supply chain.

Key Takeaways:

  • Food producers, scientists, and researchers continue to seek ways to reduce the effects of the food supply chain on climate change by reducing waste and implementing best practices.
  • Nations trade 23% of the food produced worldwide, and global food supplies account for 10% of the GDP. Reducing international trade will improve food supply chains.
  • Deteriorating infrastructure might explain some of the supply chain disruptions. Investing funds to improve roads, bridges, railways, and shipping ports will reduce these disruptions.

5 Ways to Untangle Food Supply Chains Worldwide  

The first step to untangling the food supply chain is to change attitudes about food, its production, distribution, and consumption. There are no easy solutions to the current challenges facing food supply chains. Here are several ways your brand can help with these efforts by prioritizing resilience and long-term sustainability. 

1. Implement Eco-Friendly Best Practices  

The environmental impact of the global food supply chain is shocking. Farmers and food producers, scientists, and researchers have sought ways to reduce the effects the food supply chain has on climate change. It includes prioritizing less water-intensive crops and recycling water when possible. Reducing CO2 levels can positively impact crop yields, boosting profits.

Bar graph of the greenhouse emissions of food production.

Image Courtesy of Our World in Data

However, the sooner you execute these changes, the quicker you will see results, such as reduced energy bills, less air pollution due to greenhouse emissions, and an increase in conservation and sustainability.

2. Reduce International Trade Reliance   

Today, nations trade approximately 23% of all the food produced worldwide. Furthermore, global food systems account for 10% of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP). The United States alone imports 55% of fresh fruits, 32% of vegetables, and 94% of all seafood consumed annually.

It is difficult to envision a world where American grocery stores no longer stocked produce throughout the year. However, a shift to consuming locally sourced produce and other seasonal foods should reduce the strain on food supply chains worldwide. 

Local sourcing will allow farmers and food processing plants to establish a more resilient, cost-effective, and green system. Historically, outsourcing food production overseas kept supplies steady and prices low. However, it also increases the risk of food supply chain disruptions. 

That’s why it might be time to change the system. Rural and urban agriculture alike can implement these changes. Check out how Singapore utilizes high-tech urban farming to reduce its reliance on imports.

3. Establish More Localized Suppliers   

You should also consider sourcing supplies from local supply networks while reducing reliance on international trade. Decrease the burdens supply chains place on the world’s logistical infrastructure by reducing the distance items must travel to get to (and from) you. 

While establishing more localized supply chains promises some advantages, it’s not without risks. Small supply networks are especially vulnerable to supply disruptions and operational issues when limiting suppliers to local networks. Also, while it is more sustainable, it would likely devastate farming economies worldwide if done on a large scale.

4. Invest in Infrastructure  

In some countries, deteriorating infrastructure could explain some of the world’s continuous supply chain disruptions. If policymakers invested more funds in improving and repairing railway tracks, bridges, roads, and ports, logistical issues would reduce significantly.

5. Reduction in Meat Consumption    

Did you know that cattle and other livestock take up virtually 80% of agricultural land worldwide? Oddly, it only produces less than 20% of the world’s supply of calories. If people were to eat less meat, dairy, and animal products, a significant portion of land would be available for growing crops for human consumption.

The Future of the Food Supply Chain

The future of the food supply chain will require an overhaul of the major systems the members of the food supply chain currently use. Sustainability is the top priority, from food production to preparation and consumption. It even includes matters involving marketing and resource and waste recovery, as seen in the chart below.

Infograph of food system elements

Image Courtesy of Association for Vertical Farming

Technology, accompanied by more sustainable practices, will drive evolutions in the food supply chain moving forward. By incorporating both technological innovations with environmentally conscious strategies, you can ensure you won’t face the same supply issues some of your competitors struggle to overcome because they still use old, inefficient methods.   

How Brands Collaborate to Untangle the Food Supply Chain  

Teaming up with other members of the food supply chain is the best method for developing sustainable food production practices that will secure the supply of the world’s food. SIAL America hosts food and beverage trade shows to connect brands and consumers. Collaborate with other top brands and see how you can improve your brand’s impact on the food supply chain. 

Attend our next show as a guest or join us as an exhibitor and show off your brand’s latest innovations.