Introduction

As the global population continues to rise, ensuring food security while minimizing the environmental impact of food production has become a paramount concern. The food industry, particularly in a country as populous as India, plays a crucial role in addressing these challenges. In 2024, sustainable practices are at the forefront of the food industry’s agenda in India, focusing on various aspects from novel food sources to resource footprint reduction.

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Here are the key priorities shaping the sustainable food industry landscape in India in 2024.
1. Sustainable novel and alternative sources for nutritious desirable food

With an ever-growing population, finding alternative and sustainable sources of nutritious food is imperative. In 2024, the focus is on exploring novel sources such as plant-based proteins, algae and insect-based products. These alternatives not only offer nutritional benefits but also reduce the environmental impact associated with traditional animal farming.

Food Manufacturer benefit

Increased diversity of sustainable food sources through the growth and transformation of a wider range of crops, including more fruit and vegetables and valorization of side-stream materials, the use of biotechnology and aquaculture to produce sustainable, high-value, nutritious food ingredients.

Focus areas

o Bioconversion technologies to identify sustainable sources of affordable, low calorie food sources, (including bulk replacement);
o Bioconversion technologies for high value ingredients at lower cost: natural colours, flavours, functional high value ingredients;
o Flexibility and resilience of ingredient source through understanding how to process diverse raw materials to standard manufacturing and nutritional specifications;
o Mapping of protein for the future including new or existing sources of protein (e.g. plant, aquaculture, fermentation technologies) with required functional and nutritional attributes, as well as new breeding innovations to boost functional protein levels;
o New processes for coping with alternative, sustainable sources of staples (particularly high value protein) – algae, insects, protein from fermentation and from plant material to create organoleptically acceptable products (flavour, texture, appearance) addressing anti-nutritional factors;
o Exploiting under-utilized crops that suit agronomy under changing climatic conditions;
o Understanding of satiety levers (structure, texture, taste, consumer behaviour): predictive modelling combining all inputs;
o Approaches that improve nutritional composition including increasing fibre and micronutrient content whilst reducing fat/salt/sugar.

Food System Impact

• Nutritious food for all;
• Connected and new supply chains / healthier and sustainable eating;
• Food security and sustainable production;
• Reducing waste in the food system.

2. Food safety processes aligned to Net-Zero Targets

Ensuring food safety remains a top priority, but the emphasis is shifting towards aligning these processes with net-zero targets. The integration of renewable energy, eco-friendly packaging and sustainable transportation in the food supply chain is crucial for achieving a balance between food safety and environmental responsibility.

Food Manufacturer benefit

Safety by design approaches for future manufacturing (ingredients, processes and packaging).

Focus areas

• New paradigms in preservation without sugar / salt / added ingredients and processes for safety (by design);
• Processing to decrease/remove the need for cleaning;
• Safety of reusable packaging;
• Developing rapid methods for identification and quantification of toxins, allergens and pathogenic organisms across the food chain;
• Understanding the epidemiology of microorganisms through the food environment;
• Preventing the transfer of antimicrobial resistant (AMR) organisms to the food chain e.g. in fermentation processes.

Food System Impact

• An efficient food system/transparent food system.

3. Personalized/stratified nutrition, consumer insight on life stage demands

The Food Industry is witnessing a shift towards personalized and stratified nutrition, taking into account individual preferences, dietary requirements and life stages. This personalized approach not only enhances consumer satisfaction but also reduces food waste by aligning production with specific demands.

Food Manufacturer benefit

Solutions to address consumer requirements for premium, personalized and life stage nutrition and associated health benefits (e.g. healthy ageing). Insights to enable reduction in energy (calorie), density (responsible great tasting products/maintaining customer enjoyment in line with nutritional guidelines).

Focus areas

• Stratification / link between consumer demographic and food products;
• Gut microbiome understanding and influences on interaction with existing and new products and materials;
• Gut microbiome and its effect on host metabolism and energy balance. In the longer term, understanding and predictably influencing these interactions. Product structure design for targeted nutrient delivery;
• Food materials science, processing, and smart formulation to hit a number of targets and remain compatible with existing processes. These targets include generating multiple outcomes from simple core ingredients and ingredients with desired flavour/taste properties;
• Consumer behavioural psychology and effective communication/ education of nutritional benefits throughout life;
• Flavour modulation through manipulation of components.

Food System Impact

• Healthier diets.
• Healthier eating.

4. Processing Technologies

In 2024, the adoption of innovative processing technologies is driving efficiency and sustainability in the food industry. Advanced processing methods such as high-pressure processing, fermentation and nanotechnology are being employed to preserve nutrients, extend shelf life and reduce energy consumption.

Food Manufacturer benefit

Novel solutions to address climate adaption of raw ingredients, lower energy inputs and minimal processing trends

Focus areas

o Predictive modelling to forecast impact of ingredient type/format/processing changes;
o “Right-first-time” manufacturing including sensor development, fast prototyping (additive manufacturing), traceability and measuring of raw material quality throughout the supply chain;
o Integration of packaging with food manufacturing process (e.g. in-line packaging labelling/printing), improved properties for labels (e.g. recycling, biodegradable);
o Minimal mechanical processing to improve bioconversion efficiency.

Food System Impact

• More resilient supply chains;
• Less processed food;
• Food security and sustainable production;
• Transparent food system;
• Maintain high standards of food safety.

Food product boxes transfer automated conveyor systems

5. Digital manufacture adoption, digital technologies, scalable and efficient manufacture

Digital manufacturing is playing a pivotal role in streamlining production processes. From precision agriculture to smart supply chain management, digital technologies are enhancing efficiency and scalability, enabling the food industry to meet the demands of a growing population while minimizing waste.

Food Manufacturer benefit

Optimization of labour and resource productivity for food manufacturers and processors

Focus areas

• New manufacturing paradigms to deliver flexibility and agility, decrease downtime and enable local manufacture;
• Sensors to determine ‘healthy’, in process, product and digestion;
• ‘Healthy’ by design – Processes for creating products with maximum bioavailability of nutrients during digestion. Advanced robotics, including collaborative robots, human safe robotic interactions, novel actuators to control and food safe design;
• Novel and rapid sensors to monitor and control food systems (including quality, nutrition and safety);
• Factory measurement systems feedback into primary production to provide data and on-farm measures that will improve yield and product quality;
• Co-robotics improving the human: machine interface;
• Adaptive manufacturing (feedback/feed forward).

Food System Impact

• An efficient food system/transparent food system

6. Data for Interpretation and Optimization of Process and Material Flow

Data-driven decision-making is becoming a cornerstone in the quest for sustainability. The food industry is leveraging big data analytics and artificial intelligence to interpret and optimize process and material flow. This approach minimizes resource wastage, improves production efficiency and enhances overall sustainability.

Food Manufacturer benefit

Reduction in manufacturing costs and increase in productivity.

Focus areas

• Blockchain or other technologies applied to track, trace and authenticate supply chains;
• Machine learning to optimize process efficiency;
• Predictive modelling to forecast impact of ingredient type/format/processing changes;
• Natural, minimally-refined ingredients processed for optimal functionality using non-destructive testing/sensing with in-line monitoring;
• Integrated supply chains/logistics.

Food System impact

• An efficient food system/transparent food system;
• Maintain high standards of food safety;
• Reducing waste in the food system.

7. Temperature control and water reuse

Temperature controls in food processing and water reuse are critical areas of focus in 2024. Implementing energy-efficient cooling systems and developing water recycling mechanisms not only reduce operational costs but also contribute significantly to minimizing the environmental impact of the food industry.

Food Manufacturer benefit

Progression towards net zero and increase in productivity.

Focus areas

• Water recovery and re-use technologies;
• Low energy and low/intermediate water processing;
• New heating and cooling technologies that do not use fossil fuels;
• Improve resource efficiency with reduced greenhouse gas emissions in reimagined food processing. (e.g. reduction of heating then cooling or wetting then subsequent drying steps across the food chain.)

Food System Impact

• A clean and green food system/transparent food system;
• Sustainable production;
• Reducing waste in the food system.

8. Alternative packaging and prevention of single use plastic

The shift towards sustainable packaging materials is gaining momentum in the food industry. In India, there is a concerted effort to reduce reliance on single-use plastic and explore alternatives like biodegradable packaging, plant-based materials and innovative packaging designs that prioritize recyclability.

Food Manufacturer benefit

Improvement in safety and carbon footprint

Focus areas

• Smart materials – react to stimuli (e.g. environmental conditions) and adjust their protective functions accordingly (e.g. colour change, barrier, chemical scavenging);
• Flexible packaging;
• Value added packaging solutions that once finished turn into value-added side-stream, for e.g. building blocks for housing;
• Improving durability – making packaging more reusable;
• Advanced mono-materials that facilitate (on-site) recycling or increased biodegradability;
• Reusable packaging solutions.

Food System Impact

• Decrease in environmental impact / sustainable production;
• Transparent food system;
• Maintain high standards of food safety;
• Reducing waste in the food system.

9. Resource footprint measurement and reduction including carbon, water

Measuring and reducing the resource footprint is a key priority. The food industry is actively implementing strategies to quantify and minimize carbon emissions, water usage and overall environmental impact. From farm to fork, a holistic approach is being adopted to ensure that every stage of the supply chain contributes to sustainability goals.

Food Manufacturer benefit

‘Level playing field’ for product comparison

Focus areas

• Solutions for turning current waste streams into useful cost neutral or higher value commodities;
• Standardization of tracking and benchmarking and harmonized data and metrics, measuring scientifically robust full life cycle analysis;
• Cooperative, regional and local collaborations around fermentation, local sourcing, transport and logistics;
• Technologies for improved processing, pasteurization, electrification and monitoring of energy use in processes. Technology around elimination of energy needs in the first place;
• Consumer psychology, behaviour change and education for increased acceptance of sustainably sourced foods;
• Process design – build circular economy thinking into existing facilities and how to separate waste streams;
• Eco-systems: Understanding the connections between companies, processes and products (and links to valorization);
• Cascading useful materials from food/packaging waste into value streams;
• Data and evidence to assist with emerging regulation such as deforestation and sustainability.

Food System Impact

• Decrease in environmental impact / sustainable production;
• Transparent food system;
• Reducing waste in the food system.

Conclusion:

In 2024, the Indian Food Industry is embracing sustainability as a core principle to address the challenges of feeding a growing population while preserving the environment. From alternative food sources to advanced processing technologies, the industry is evolving to meet the demands of a changing world. By prioritizing sustainable practices, India is laying the foundation for a nourished and sustainable tomorrow.

Ashutosh JaiswalAbout the Author:
Ashutosh Jaiswal
Food Safety Professional
Email ID: ashuthewall@gmail.com
Website: https://www.foodsafetywithashutosh.com

 

 

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Author

An editor by day & dreamer at night; passionately involved with both print and digital media; Pet lover; Solo traveller.

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