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Fi Europe 2023

Our global food systems require multifaceted, innovative, and responsive solutions [Interview]

Article-Our global food systems require multifaceted, innovative, and responsive solutions [Interview]

© Fi Global Insights Fi Europe 2023 Interview with Christine Gould
The world’s diverse food systems experience broad complexities and far-reaching challenges, prompting new ideas for sustainable, nutritious, and tasty product offers. Christine Gould, founder and CEO of Thought for Food, delves into today’s global food systems and opportunities to optimise them for evolution and resilience.

Christine Gould will be speaking at the Future of Nutrition Summit, held during Fi Europe in Frankfurt, discussing food systems and ingredients of the future. We caught up with her to find out more.

How would you sum up the globe’s current food systems?

“Systems are indeed what we have. It is not a single system. We have a complex and diverse web of food systems underpinned by their needs, conditions, and cultures interconnected with our planetary systems.

“Food systems are under immense pressure from unprecedented challenges like climate change, natural resource depletion, high barriers to entry, low technification, and a lack of interest in farming.

“Our current solutions to feed and nourish our planet aren’t enough. They were built in the industrial era when systems were seen as mechanical and linear. In today’s world, we can integrate the complexity of biological, environmental, social, and economic systems into our thinking and approaches.

“We need all hands on deck to think about these problems in new, creative ways and experiment with and scale solutions that leverage the incredible technologies and business models we now have access to. These are profoundly challenging but also exciting times for food systems!”

Are today’s food systems meeting consumer and industry needs?

“Today’s food systems need to meet consumer and industry needs fully. The food supply chain faces disruptions due to extreme weather events, geopolitical tensions, and other challenges, which cause supply shortages and price volatility.

“Consumers increasingly demand sustainable, nutritious, delicious, and locally/sustainably sourced food options, which the industry struggles to provide consistently and at prices accessible to all. Significant issues also include food waste, inefficient supply chains, and barriers to entry for small-scale producers and startups.

“While efforts are underway to address these challenges, a significant gap exists between the food systems’ current state and the ideal scenario where all stakeholders’ needs are met.”

How can food systems be improved to respond effectively to these?

“Food systems can be improved by actively creating spaces for innovators and solution-builders to learn about the pain points and gaps and to jump in with new ideas and new thinking to build appropriate solutions.

“Then, we need to help these solutions scale to make the necessary and possible changes, which requires a brave approach to collaboration and investment that isn’t about incremental or business as usual. Incumbents have the chance to actively support startups by carving out pilot and scale-up projects and giving access to infrastructure.

“Investors need to understand the nuances inherent to this sector. It takes more time to bring forward transformational solutions. The timelines and growth expectations that work for business-to-business (B2B) software-as-a-service (SAAS) technologies won’t work here.”

What are the critical opportunities for companies in food R&D and manufacturing?

“In this era of heightened consumer awareness and demand for sustainable, nutritious, and transparent food options, food R&D and manufacturing companies have many opportunities to tackle issues.

“[These include] sustainable packaging, including bio-based materials and closed-loop systems; alternative proteins that go beyond the typical plant-based proteins, exploring proteins derived from algae, fungi, or lab-grown sources; and regenerative agriculture, such as carbon, soil, water, and biodiversity.

“Also, digital technologies across the entire value chain, including smart distribution and retail, and functional foods, whereby consumers are looking for foods that provide additional health benefits.”

What do the ideal food systems of the future look like?

“Ideal food systems prioritise regeneration, nutrition, and resilience. They also ensure equitable access to healthy food; they support and integrate local communities’ and ecosystems’ needs and perspectives, and they minimise waste throughout the supply chain. Getting there isn’t just about ‘the what’ – for example, new technologies – but also about ‘the how’ – fostering more experimentation, collaboration, and inclusive business models.”

“Expect a growing emphasis on diversifying plant-based and regeneratively-farmed ingredients and biotechnological innovations like precision fermentation, gene-edited crops, and cellular agriculture. But I hope these will be integrated into local contexts and the knowledge base they bring.”

About the Speaker

Christine Gould, founder and CEO of Thought for Food, is a global leader and expert in agri-food-tech innovation. She fuses energy, passion, and out-of-the-box thinking with deep commercial instinct, market insight, and strategic foresight to develop creative brand positioning and effective strategies for stakeholder engagement that lead to new opportunities for innovation and growth.