Let’s Talk About The Food Sector

A growing sector in Europe and Portugal

The food sector is one of the fastest growing sectors in Europe in recent times. According to the annual report - Data & Trends EU Food & Drink Industry 2019 - by FoodDrinkEurope, the food and drinks industry remains the largest production sector in terms of turnover, added value and jobs created. The numbers don't lie. With 1,192 billion euros generated, 2.1% gross added value, 4,7 million people employed and 294,000 active companies, this sector is clearly one of the main drivers of the European economy.

The food industry is a very diversified sector in which companies have various sizes, with SMEs generating almost half of the value of turnover, added value and providing two thirds of jobs in Europe. In Portugal, the curve is also upward, according to PORDATA statistical data. The Portuguese food and beverage industry is well positioned compared to other European countries having generated, in 2017, a turnover of 18.8 billion euros. It also had an added value of 3.3 billion euros, created 113.0 jobs (1,000) and 11,183 companies.

Open doors to digital

Given this reality, we are facing a good tide of opportunities to invest in the sector’s digitalization. In fact, 88% of companies in Europe are fully aware of the advantages that digital transformation has brought them and 59% have the necessary tools and skills to take advantage of those same advantages. In addition, 24% of companies that have seen good results with digitization reported an increase in the number of their employees.

On the road to a sustainable Europe

Even though the numbers are positive, there are still many challenges in the food area that need to be taken into consideration. It is estimated that in 2050 we will be 9.7 billion people in the world and the current world already faces social challenges: if on the one hand 13% of the population is obese, there are still 820 million people suffering from chronic hunger. Thus, these challenges and the search for sustainability are topics that deserve extra attention. According to the European Confederation of the Food Industry report, population and income growth continues to drive demand for food. Overpopulation is a problem that requires a quick fix. We have more and more mouths to feed. Contradictorily, 20% of all food produced is lost or wasted, which equates to 88 million tons - 137 kg of waste per person every year - and about 143 billion euros! Now, with the pandemic situation we are experiencing, waste has become an even greater dilemma. With fewer people leaving their homes, there's a less outflow of food, leading farmers to bury products that aren’t bought and end up spoiling.

We also have a role in this

How can we help to fight this problem? The results of the reports will only change if we all change our habits. World problems are not solved only with the “big ones” decisions. We all have a role to play in reducing hunger in the world, reducing waste and ensuring a more sustainable future.

Talking about wasting food reminded me of a situation that I want to share with you. This summer I took a cruise on the Mediterranean. “Good for you Eduarda, congratulations! But nobody wants to know about your vacation”. Fear not, I’m not going to give you a summary of my trip. I just want to point out that during the whole spectacular experience that was taking a cruise for the first time, I not only noticed the beautiful landscapes, but also a reality that shocked me and my family, a lot: people's attitude towards breakfast. Something I can describe as one word: savagery. For a moment I thought that people had never seen food in their lives. And when I say this, I mean running in the buffet line to take out a certain delicacy - even passing over others - and filling dishes with food that you will never be able to eat in your life. The Portuguese expression “having more eyes than belly” has never made more sense in my head. If we all consume only what we need, production will be less and consequently the food waste. As Leonardo Di Caprio said: “Now it's your turn. The time to answer the greatest challenge of our existence on this planet is now."

How can BGI help too?

This is the type of problem that BGI programs seek to solve. If you still don't know the food programs with which we have partnerships, I leave a brief description below.

EIT Food is working to make the food system more sustainable, healthy and trusted.

EAT Circular seeks to promote best practices in reducing food waste in collective food companies.

Trace Rice is a project whose goal is to track rice value chain, using blockchain concepts, valorizing side streams along Mediterranean rice production.

Food4Sustainability fix our food production value chain for a sustainable planet.

Know more about these programs at www.bgi.pt. Find out how you can also contribute to a more innovative and sustainable food sector. If you have an idea of how you can contribute to this challenge, check out the programs above and find out what you can win in return!

#StaySafe and see you next week! ✋🏻