Food systems are trying to adapt and stabilize a bit, but the COVID-19 pandemic still continues to disrupt the production, distribution, and consumption of food in many ways. The closing of borders, consumers stockpiling food out of fear of shortages, people rethinking the types of food to eat, and what to shop for.
For the F&B industry, this pandemic serves as an opportunity to analyze the resilience of the food systems, their resiliency to such future blows and to shifting consumer behaviours. While there is a business imperative, there’s also a moral and ethical necessity for businesses to ensure business models build a strong food security support system and tackle systemic barriers to attain healthy, fair, sustainable, and resilient food systems. COVID-19 will definitely speed up food sector transformation with regard to elevation of safety and hygiene and digitization.
Below are mentioned a few COVID-19 food sustainability trends, which can have a significant impact in the post-COVID world.
With the COVID-19 outbreak, we need to find ways to boost our immune system. To maintain health and wellness, we need to ensure that we’re eating a diet high in immune-boosting nutrients. With this realization dawning upon people, there are signs that there is an increase in the purchases of immune boosting and vitamin rich food. We also see a change in the lifestyle choices can help boost immunity. Ingredients that claim to support sleep and mental wellness also seem to be in demand in these last few months.
The rise in digitalization and personalization in nutrition
COVID-19 poses more risk to people suffering from the triple burden of malnutrition such as hunger, micro-nutrient deficiencies, and obesity. According to a report, coronavirus crisis will push more than a quarter of a billion people to the brink of starvation. Evidence is also emerging that obesity-related conditions seem to worsen the effect of the virus. Over the coming months, we can expect an increasing focus on lifestyle medicines and foods for preemptive care. Also, optimization of diets, which meet the specific nutritional needs of vulnerable groups including children, elderly, and people with medical conditions. The use of technology and data for food will facilitate more personalized forms of nutrition helping people to make informed nutrition choices to meet their requirements.
Shorter value chains
In the light of the pandemic, there has been significant attention, scrutiny, and debate on the resilience of global food commodity chains and centralized distribution networks. Already there’s a notable debate about the opportunity this pandemic provides to decentralize our food systems and produce a greater proportion of nutritious and healthy produce; as we are witnessing a demand for more local food which is fresh, organic, and offers optimal nutrient quality. Even authorities are leaning toward the idea of localization and pushing for the transformation of food production by investing more in local produce and reducing dependency on food which is imported.
Conditions of the food workers
Food and farm workers and also the ones working in retail, food service, and processing are among those most at risk from the economic disruption in the food value chains due to the pandemic. There will be more attention on the need to implement and strengthen a range of existing instruments to enhance human rights and working conditions due to the massive blow this pandemic has caused on the income levels of food workers.
Reconnecting people with food
The lockdown due to the pandemic has resulted in a huge rise in people engaging in home cooking/baking and vegetable gardening/growing. People are reconnecting with food and there is also an opportunity for the food industry to support the renaissance in the growing, cooking, and celebration of foods, particularly linked to appreciation of cultures and places. Because of which community gardens, fresh produce box schemes, community supported agricultural schemes have witnessed an upsurge as people are focusing on physical and mental well-being.
COVID-19 has highlighted the fragility of our food systems and it is now important to fix the loopholes prevalent in the existing system to prevent ourselves from future shocks. We can start by taking the need for food quality monitoring more seriously. To ensure that we build better and resilient food systems, we need a more integrated approach and more transparency between the food producers and food auditing bodies to protect public health and nutrition.