The Food Wars business
DOI link for The Food Wars business
The Food Wars business book
Take care to drive your cow gently, if you want to milk her comfortably. Catherine the Great, Empress of All Russia (1729-96)
Core arguments The previous chapters discussed whether and how public bodies can address the challenges of health and environment for the food system. In this chapter we review the role of business in food supply. It is food commerce which ultimately feeds most people on the nowurbanised planet; the exceptions are those consumers mostly in lowincome countries who live self-sufficient and often poor lives or are otherwise excluded and marginalised. Since the turn of the millennium, food industries across the world have gradually been made to engage more with health and the environment. This has happened partly due to external pressures and partly out of self-interest. We see three main approaches emerging from food business in this dynamic. The first approach is to ignore or downplay or subvert the challenges. The second is to engage but in a light way. The third is to begin the process of reimagining and re-engineering how food businesses work and to put in place new commercial goals and metrics. These approaches each carry risks and are complicated by external dynamics such as global pressures, competition, geo-politics, over which not even giant food corporations have sufficient power to ensure smooth transitions. Food business is thus locked into a double-bind. On the one hand, its material resources are becoming less controllable, commodity prices increasingly volatile, and subject to externalities beyond corporate control. And on the other hand, consumers and governments are slowly waking up to the urgent need to reduce and alter food consumption in rich societies while improving diets without environmental damage in the majority of the world. Cutting across this double bind is the continued pressure to make profits from food and to operate in highly competitive markets where margins can
be tight. There is an ongoing battle over which sector in food supply chains makes the most money and has the most control. Whereas this dynamic used to occur almost entirely within national boundaries, today it occurs across continents and the world. In this new map of food business, there are giant corporations whose turnover is vast, alongside hundreds of millions of tiny enterprises from farms to cafés. Business risk and volatility is compounded by commerce seeking solutions within the different paradigms of the Food Wars.