At FoodE, we understand that sustainability goes hand in hand with the food and drink industry. We also understand there are still some big question marks for businesses.

This blog shares some amazing sustainability insights from The Future Food Forum and Growing Kent and Medway. Both events were held at The University of Kent in 2023. Here’s an overview of what we learnt:

The Future Food Forum – Produced in Kent

Hosted by Produced in Kent, The Future Food Forum looks at key trends shaping the food and drink industry.

To begin, ‘sustainability’ is defined as the ability to support processes continuously. Best practices include reducing food waste, employing eco-friendly packaging, sourcing local ingredients and optimising energy and water efficiency. The Future Food Forum emphasised the need to shorten supply chains overall to foster a sustainability-focussed mindet.

Aiming for zero waste

Initiatives such as “Too Good To Go” and “Olio” are game-changing in helping consumers make a sustainable choice. Retailers can combat food waste by offering slightly less-fresh-but-still-good food at affordable prices. Recycling is also pivotal, championed by organisations like Terracycle. Using sustainable packaging like paper & cardboard and minimising single-use items, is absolutely crucial. Biodiversity and re-wilding efforts positively impact the environment and are favoured by consumers.

Communicate your credentials

To authentically champion sustainability you must maintain consistency in your actions. But you must also communicate your credentials! Emphasise your goals and share your mission statement. Marketing opportunities like Earth Day or World Hunger Day can be beneficial, but balance those with contributing to relevant causes and demonstrate your commitment to sustainability.

It probably goes without saying, but avoid loopholes and cutting corners when it comes to sustainability. Deviations like using pollution-heavy transport can undermine sustainability efforts. When faced with a drastic energy cost increase, a Cambridgeshire pie company engaged customers in a poll. As a result, they now sell uncooked pies for home preparation, greatly reducing their energy waste.

Growing Kent & Medway (GKM)

This members event is for GKM which is a scheme funded by Innovate UK for food and drink businesses. Reporting remarkable outcomes from its funding programs, there is a primary focus on agri-tech and sustainable innovation in the horticultural and plant-based food and beverage sectors. Collaborative research initiatives, uniting industry, scientific expertise, customer insights and academia have delivered significant advancements in the future of food industries. Kent also thrives on its rich offerings of arts, culture, and lifestyle, making it an attractive place for residents and businesses alike.

Collaboration is leading the way

Collaborative research initiatives are vital for sustainability. Uniting industry and scientific expertise, with customer insights and academia has delivered significant advancements in the future of food industries. For example collaboration between farming and agriculture sectors enhances productivity.

These efforts are supported by a range of outstanding funding opportunities.Innovation is fostered through programs like Growing Kent and Medway and their past successes.

Sustainable Futures in Kent

Simon Ryan of Locate in Kent discussed the investment landscape in Kent. Its strategic location, with geographic advantages and access to Europe, makes it appealing for investment – with interest from Canada, Hong Kong, and Germany. There are of course sustainabilty challenges – namely that it is a growing population and limited land resources for housing, workplaces and agriculture. Historically, food production has been a key economic driver in Kent. For now though, Kent grapples with the challenges of populations growth there is a need to produce more food for the expanding populace.

GKM case studies:

Nutri-San

Nutri-San talked about their ongoing sustainable seaweed innovation. They use raw seaweed biomass to produce animal feed supplements. The meal supplements can be made for a wide range of farm animals and can be supplied in the needed format whether that be powder or pellets etc. Nutri-San currently operate in Kent, Zanzibar and Vietnam and employ 10,000 seaweed harvesters! They’re aiming to remove micro-plastics in farming too.

Fun fact: The more you harvest seaweed, the more it regenerates…

Nim’s

Nim’s Fruit & Veg crisps are healthy and nutritional, but also completely made from otherwise wasted produce! They’re on a mission to create zero food waste by using fruit & veg that has been deemed too big, small, wonky or blemished and turn them into fulfilling snacks. 95% of all their produce is rescued, and nearly 70% of it is all grown in the UK too. Nim’s don’t peel or core their produce to further minimise waste and increase the total nutrition. By air drying their produce they also create snacks with a very long shelf life and maintains 95% of the fruit or vegetables original nutrition.

Macknade

Macknade were establised in 1847 and are a generational Food & Drink SME. Their aim is to bring communities together through food and drink.

Stefano Cuomo talked to us about the importance of human connection in the retail space, as relationships underpin what we do and food and drink makes those relationships stronger. We should build communities, not houses. The future of Kent has to be placemaking so green space and homes can go side-by-side.