Innovation & Sustainability Power Food Supply Chain – Yet More Work Remains To Be Done

Did you ever wonder how it’s possible to walk into your local market or shop your online store and purchase your favorite produce virtually any day of the year?

For instance:

  • Bananas always.
  • Blueberries, raspberries and strawberries seemingly all the time.
  • Avocados yes.
  • What about apples, harvested once per year? Yes again. You can buy a wide range of apple varieties 52 weeks of the year.

We enjoy this “take for granted” abundance because there is a fantastic food supply chain in place around the world that includes agriculture solutions providers, growers, packers, shippers, ripeners and retailers. It does not happen by accident. Rather, this “secret magic” of the food/produce industry is grounded in science-based innovation, powered by safe and effective technologies specially designed for the task.

The “secret magic” of the food/produce supply chain is grounded in science-based innovation, powered by safe and effective technologies specially designed for the task. Via @hchimoff. #sustainability #foodloss #foodwaste #produce #shelflifeextension

There is a large array of companies – from seeds to pest management to pre-harvest crop nurturing to the entire post-harvest processing cycle – that are working diligently so that consumers can enjoy great tasting fruits and vegetables whenever they and their families desire. This integrated supply chain is focused on great farming/growing, sustainability, quality, freshness and shelf life extension.

It’s more than just farmers and growers, even though they are the backbone of the industry. What happens once a crop is harvested is every bit as important as everything that has taken place up to that point.

There is a magnificent post-harvest industry dedicated to ensuring that the just-picked quality extends all the way to the kitchen table. Technology plays an increasingly critical role, with artificial intelligence and machine learning powering ever increasing and more robust, easy-to-use quality management systems. Further, many companies track and report their ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) activities, which also contribute to a sustainable food system.

Infographic Credit: United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)

However, there is a significant challenge, which is to reduce food loss and waste. A new WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) study estimates that total food loss and waste is over 2.5 billion tonnes, which is close to 40% of all food produced.

While the two terms are often grouped together as “food waste,” there are important distinctions, as explained by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which are critical to properly understand and address the issue:

  • Food loss is the decrease in the quantity or quality of food resulting from decisions and actions by food suppliers in the chain, excluding retailers, food service providers and consumers.
  • Food waste refers to the decrease in the quantity or quality of food resulting from decisions and actions by retailers, food service providers and consumers.

Numerous initiatives are in place globally to reduce food loss and waste, encompassing individual consumer behavior, grower actions, supplier solutions and even regional cities/businesses integrated problem-solving such as the Pacific Coast Collaborative.

Many food loss/waste reduction efforts are connected to United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 12.3, which aggressively targets a 50% reduction in global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and a reduction of food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses.

In addition to WWF, another influential global organization actively addressing food loss and waste is WRI (World Resources Institute). For example, as part of WRI’s Champions 12.3 coalition, a “group of the world’s largest food retailers and providers announced that nearly 200 of their major suppliers have committed to root out food loss and waste from the supply chain.”


Harvey Chimoff is a customer-focused global business leader who connects marketing across the organization to drive performance and achieve business objectives. His B2B and CPG marketing expertise includes agribusiness, ingredients and food and beverage. Contact him at harveychimoff.com.

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