Creating Sustainable Practices in the Food Supply Chain

Posted by Advanced Mobile Group on Jan 24, 2022 1:02:35 PM


Increasing product demands, overpopulation, regulatory concerns, and environmental aspects all have an impact on the sustainability of the supply chain, especially in the food sector. There are many parameters in a food supply chain that need to be considered for sustainability. Here are some of the main challenges with food supply chains and the ways your business can create more sustainable practices.

What is the Food Supply Chain?

food-mapThe food supply chain consists of every touchpoint and process for food products between a farm or factory and the consumer’s fork. Throughout this process, the food might move through many different processes and locations, with the opportunity for bottlenecks, waste, contamination, and other inefficiencies. The most common stages of the food supply chain include:

  • Farm — This is where ingredients like vegetables, fruit, and meat originate. 
  • Processing — Animals and plants are converted into marketable food products at this stage. 
  • Distribution — Once the food is processed and packaged, it arrives at a distribution center. Distributors sell food items, manage inventory, and arrange transportation to various buyers. 
  • Retail — Food arrives at either a grocery store or restaurant for marketing and sale to consumers. 
  • Consumer — The consumers purchase the food from the grocer or restaurant. 

This list seems simple enough. But some food items might travel halfway around the globe before arriving at a processor or distributor. And others, like those that require cold storage, run into their own logistical issues.

Main Challenges in the Food Supply Chain

Why Transparency Matters in the Food Supply ChainCOVID-19 and a lack of visibility among participants have caused significant problems for restaurants and food retailers. Many businesses lack the technology that provides a real-time view of their inventory and the logistics process. Some of the biggest challenges facing the food supply chain include:

  • Changing Consumer Demands — Consumers are increasingly demanding more visibility in the supply chain for many reasons. Some want nutrition and ingredient information for health reasons, and others only want to purchase from sustainable sources.
  • Increased Regulations — Governments are creating more regulations that apply not only to food safety but also to things like labor and transportation. 
  • Fragmented Supply Chains — It’s challenging for restaurants and grocers to provide information to consumers when there isn’t the data available to do so. 
  • Dishonest Participants — Some companies are trying to pass off fraudulent items in the food supply chain, and other supply chain participants are not honest about their processes.

What is a Sustainable Food Supply Chain?

Sustainability in the food supply chain is about lowering the impact of food production on the natural environment as materials move through the supply chain from farm to processor to warehouse to table. It is also about reducing food waste throughout this process. 

Sustainable supply chain management happens when businesses use environmentally-friendly practices from the start to the finish of the supply chain. This allows businesses to reduce emissions, lower their carbon footprint, and meet the demands of health-conscious consumers.

Benefits of Making Sustainability a Priority

Food supply chains have a significant impact on the environment. Because of this, there is a strong push to emphasize the sustainability issues connected to the logistics process for food items. In addition to reducing your carbon footprint, here are some of the other benefits of making food supply chain sustainability a priority:


  • Meet Regulatory Requirements — Anyone working in the food industry must comply with health and safety regulations. Being compliant with FDA regulations and being a socially-responsible business can make a company more competitive. 
  • Get Tax Incentives — Governments have begun providing businesses with tax incentives that implement sustainability initiatives in their operations and supply chains. 
  • Eliminate Waste — Conserving energy, water, and other resources to streamline activities and save money will improve supply chain operations. 
  • Improve Your Reputation — Marketing your brand as a sustainable business can attract new customers and help you retain the ones you already have. 
  • Increase Bottom-Line — Experience and studies show that practicing sustainability will increase profits. 

How to Instill Sustainable Practices in the Food Supply Chain

Sustainability is essential across the entire food supply chain. Inefficiencies in one area can increase costs in another. So, an industry-wide commitment to sustainability is the best approach. For both business and environmental reasons, more and more companies are looking for ways to improve sustainability throughout the food supply chain. Here are some of the top strategies that can produce results.

1. Embracing Technology

220104-how-has-the-shipping-backup-affected-the-foodservice-supply-chainTechnology has always had an influence on food production, with innovations throughout history that have changed agriculture and processing, from the invention of combine harvesters to the use of high-yield seeds. 

Some of the new technologies that can help make the food chain more sustainable include artificial intelligence and machine learning, embedded systems to control things like water usage, and advanced processing equipment to reduce waste and the consumption of resources. 

2. Investing in High-Quality Equipment

Using high-quality, modern equipment can lower energy consumption and production costs and reduce overall waste. The right equipment, such as RFID tags and mobile carts, can also help your business automate its production processes to better control inventory and improve visibility throughout the food supply chain. 

3. Limiting Water Consumption

It likely takes more water than necessary to produce food. And water is a scarce resource. A focus on limiting water consumption should be a sustainability priority. Businesses can limit their water use when washing equipment and ingredients and not letting taps run when not in use. 

4. Composting and Reducing Food Waste

The EPA reports that the U.S. produces 41 million tons of food waste each year. Of that, only roughly 6.3% goes to incinerators and landfills for recycling and composting initiatives. Increasing composting can help farmers create richer soil, ultimately reducing costs at the end of the supply chain. 

Sustainability is a vital concern among consumers, businesses, and governments. One of the critical components of sustainability is efficient food supply chain management. Putting the right practices and technology in place that minimizes waste and streamlines the supply chain can boost sustainability as well as save costs and improve overall business results.

Related posts

Topics: RFID, Supply Chain, Food industry, Sustainability

Did you find this interesting? Please share!