Food is an essential part of our lives, which is why the way it is grown, processed and transported is worth understanding and improving. Broadly, the food industry comprises a complex network of activities pertaining to the supply, consumption, and catering of food products and services across the world. Finished food products and partially prepared ‘instant’ food packets are also a part of the food industry. The food industry employs a massive number of skilled and unskilled workers. However, the food industry excludes subsistence farmers who use their produce for self consumption.
The food industry is highly diverse and comprises several important components. Each component adds distinct value to the whole food chain by improving sustainability and producing better products.
The varied activities of the food sector are classified as follows:
A number of factors heighten the demand in the global food industry such as the population levels, wealth distribution, health awareness (organic food) and types of varied lifestyles. The food supply drivers include the quality of the supply chain, level of competition in the industry and the composition of the target consumers.
The global food processing and beverage industry is dominated by a cluster of highly powerful multinational corporations. Some big names are ConAgra, Krafts Foods, Cadbury, General Mills, H.J. Heinz, Nestlé and Unilever. Top fast food franchises across the world include McDonalds, Pizza Hut, KFC and Dominoes Pizza. The US food industry generated revenue that totaled to $126 billion in 2008. Major frozen food manufacturers are ConAgra Foods and the Schwan Food Company. In 2007, the total revenue from the frozen food industry was about $100 billion.
Major players in the UK include Unilever, Compass, Tesco and Schweppes. They launched an initiative called ‘Plough to Plate’ to reconnect farmers to consumers and vice versa. Tesco’s prompt and impressive record of 5% reduction in energy consumption took place due to initiatives like the use of bakery extract controls and reflex energy saving lamps. Similar initiatives are required for energy savings, fiscal incentives and market incentives.
Rising prices in agricultural commodities have forced food makers to hike prices. The current challenge for the food industry is to accomplish economic success with a focus to improve energy savings and ensure social as well as environmental performance.