Why innovation and R&D must drive the transformation of the global food system

BATTLE CREEK, Mich., November 18, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — Globally, both the public and private sectors are working together to achieve United Nations Sustainable Development Goal No. 2 – end hunger, achieve food security and improve prosperity and sustainable agriculture by 2030. Dr. Nigel HughesSVP Global Innovation and R&D, Kellogg Company & Dr. Pam HendersonCEO of NewEdge, Inc., share strategies for how innovation and R&D teams can transform our global food system in a new blog post.

To sustainably feed the world’s growing population, we must embrace the next agricultural revolution and find new ways to innovate our food system.

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The world population is projected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050 and with it will come increased demand for food. The United Nations estimates that the world will need to produce 60% more food by 2050 to keep up with population growth. However, doing this within the limits of what our planet can sustainably grow presents an existential challenge.

Boosting the efficiency of current food production practices is not the answer. The agri-food industry is responsible for about 25% of greenhouse gas emissions and 70% of freshwater consumption and is significantly over-dependent on animal food.

To sustainably feed the world’s growing population, we must embrace the next agricultural revolution and find new ways to innovate our food system.

Sustainable food as an innovation opportunity

The impact of the food system on climate change and biodiversity is just beginning to receive the recognition it deserves and needs. We all need to think differently to improve it, working with nature instead of exploiting it. For food companies, this cannot simply be outsourced to a sustainability department. These are significant challenges but equally attractive and exciting innovation problems to solve. At its heart, impacting the food system is an opportunity for innovation.

When we apply Opportunity Thinking®, we combine a view of market needs, the value propositions that can be created through technology and business models, and the conditions and trends that bring them together, and we can begin to unlock solutions. The food system is a major opportunity: the need is deep, the value proposition of food security and independence is worth working towards, and the conditions of climate change and water scarcity are prime for transformative innovation.

Sustainable food as an opportunity for experimentation

Creating the right value chains across the system is essential to drive meaningful change. The current system is complex and there are a myriad of stakeholders with a vested interest in its success. The challenge has been met by convening large ecosystems of influencers, observers and participants, but the result is often more talk than action. While we need to work together and leverage each other’s strengths and roles, too many “cooks in the kitchen” will stifle innovation and prevent us from scaling sustainable food globally.

Changes in large-scale food systems require innovation teams to be at their best, experimenting with new approaches in closed systems that provide controlled environments before scaling these solutions.

A great example of a closed-loop experiment is vertical farming in the UAE, which enables year-round production without the use of fertilizers and pesticides with a smaller footprint than traditional farming. Being in cities close to where people will live, it’s exciting to look at the opportunities to access and reduce food waste they provide.

Sustainable food requires collective solutions

No one company or actor in the system can solve the challenges alone. Incremental improvements will come through new thinking and collaborations to find collective solutions. We need to rethink our relationships across the system and work interdependently toward win-win solutions.

Take, for example, Kellogg’s rice supply programs. As part of its Better Days Promise – environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategy, the company created a closed-system experiment to pilot the Kellogg’s Ingrained™ program to help rice farmers in the Lower Mississippi River Basin reduce methane from the North American rice ingredient supply chain. .

Kellogg provides training opportunities in irrigation management, nutrient management and soil health to support farmers’ transition to new practices, rewarding farmers per ton of GHG reduction achieved by their new methods. Feedback from participating farmers will shape and improve the implementation of the program in the coming years.

The Case for a Food System Innovation Coalition

Innovation for the future food system must focus on more than just the planet. It provides an opportunity for companies to reassess where there is an opportunity. A necessary pivot is for these companies to explore what is competitive versus pre-competitive. When companies come together pre-competitively to innovate in sustainability, we unleash and scale their collective innovation potential to address a shared problem. A rising tide will lift all boats! We need to find ways to create opportunities for everyone within the system to create the scale of change that is needed.

We believe that the biggest food companies are the ones that can create transformative innovation at scale in our global food system. They have the resources and expertise to take an experimental approach in a fairly open/closed system, with a smaller set of actors to see what works and what doesn’t. In this way, we will turn sustainability aspirations into reality.

At Kellogg Company (NYSE: K), our vision is a good and just world where people are not just fed but fulfilled. We create better days and a place at the table for everyone through our trusted food brands. Our favorite brands include; Pringles®, Cheez-It®, Special K®, Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes®, Pop-Tarts®, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes®, Rice Krispies®, Eggo®, Mini-Wheats®, Kashi®, RXBAR®, MorningStar Farms® and more. Net sales in 2021 were almost $14.2 billion, consisting mainly of snacks as well as convenience foods such as cereals, frozen foods and noodles. As part of ours Kellogg’s® Better Days ESG strategy, we address the interrelated issues of prosperity, climate and food security, creating Better Days for 3 billion people by the end of 2030. Visit www.KelloggCompany.com.

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