As we race through the 21st century, now more than ever before it seems relevant to discuss the changes that are sweeping across the food industry.
From the new and often strange trends that are tempting the public, through to the much publicised skills gap in food based employment; the food industry is going through a turbulent yet still highly successful era.
It is often said that we live in an ageing population. In a nation where by the year 2050 a quarter of the population will be over 65 (www.parliament.co.uk) and with the advances in modern medicine and improvement of services, this is only going to increase.
With this new found longevity, the pressures on the food chain are inevitably going to be cranked up several notches. The demand for high volume manufacturing and consequently for people to work and manage these organisations are going to dramatically increase.
There are both positive and negative connotations to this. Certainly from a ‘glass half full perspective’ the increase in demand means expansion of facilities and the growth of an already booming industry across the UK. With this, the demand will stretch resources, increase pressure and most importantly increase the need for skilled workers. Not only could this lead to a dangerous situation where quantity may be preferred over quality, but it is also highlights the shortfalls of young talent aspiring to pursue a career in the food industry, through school, university and beyond, to fulfil this demand.
There are success stories. Recently, Sheffield Hallam University enrolled its first students onto a food nutrition course, designed in conjunction with some of the biggest names in the industry in order to attract new talent of all ages and sectors into the food industry. Also, Greencore recently announced, that their new facility due to be finished in 2015 will be filled with workers from Hungary (not a pun, genuine story) as they feel there are not enough local people who are interested, or indeed talented enough. This shows that although the University course is certainly a start, it is simply a drop in the ocean and more needs to be achieved right through the educational structure to promote the benefits of working within a crucial industry in the larger UK economy.
This increase in demand puts a strain on the traditional food groups that we have heavily relied on over the past century. But we are seeing new foods come onto the market and new buying trends influenced from abroad which find new products on the shelves of our biggest retailers. For example, experts predict that by the year 2020 insects will become a staple part of the British diet due to their sheer abundance, health benefits and the fact they produce very little waste, in addition to the ease in which they can be exported in the modern connected world.
It is difficult to predict the outcomes from such a broad range of issues, but what is clear is that the food industry has to deal with much change in the coming years and decades, with viable solutions needed very much in the present.