The Global Food Forum, an annual event run by the Wall Street Journal, gathered experts from across the food industry together in Chicago and online. On June 27th and 28th speakers like the Secretary of Agriculture, CEOs of major food companies, and local producers shared their insights, challenges and predictions on the state of the industry.
Here are three widely-discussed topics from the two-day event.
The War in Ukraine
The on-going Russia-Ukraine conflict is having global impacts on a number of industries, including the world-wide food system. This was a frequent topic throughout the Global Food Forum.
J. Erik Fyrwald, CEO of Syngenta, an agricultural company aiming to improve global food security by providing resources to farmers, covered the impact on the global food system in a session called The Ukraine War and the Toll on Food. “It didn’t start with the war in Ukraine, it started with the first of the 3 C’s—climate,” Fyrwald explained.
The following two C’s of his session covered the impact of covid on the supply chain and global food production along with the impact conflict has had in the on-going war Russia is waging against Ukraine. “Ukraine historically feeds 400 million people,” Fyrwald stated, highlighting the significant effects of conflict and limited exports on global food production.
“We’ve got two crises here, the food security crisis and the climate crisis. Agriculture has to transform in a way that we address both at the same time.” - J. Erik Fyrwald, CEO of Syngenta
The labor shortages affecting both the hospitality and agricultural industries came up often at the Forum.
“I know the cost of replacing people,” Ariane Daguin, Founder and CEO of D’Artagnan, said about the problem. “There is no magic solution. The only solution is money.”
Experts spoke about the impact labor shortages have had on restaurants, farms and production lines. Not only does the labor shortage impact businesses by making it difficult to find employees, it also contributes to turnover and the time it takes to get a new employee trained.
For many, the work isn’t worth the low wages. “We have to figure out…how do we get more of these profits down, out there into rural America, into the producers pockets,” said Kelsey Ducheneaux Scott, Owner of DX Beef, Director of Programs Intertribal Agriculture Council.
Sustainability & Food Waste
The climate crisis and food insecurity continue to be a regular theme at industry events like the Global Food Forum. Experts at large corporations and smaller farming operations alike spoke to the continued importance of sustainability in the industry.
Emily Broad Leib, Harvard Law School Food Law & Policy Clinic Faculty Director, covered the topic of food waste in-depth. “More than ⅓ of food that we produce and import to the US ends up in the trash. Globally about 10% of climate change greenhouse gasses come from food waste. Any time we are wasting food on a large scale there should be outrage.”
Rob Hargrove, EVP and Chief Research and Development Officer at Mondelēz International, provided insight from a large company’s perspective. “We always look at the consumer and what the consumer is feeling. People still want their products to be sustainable.” He highlighted the impact on a company-wide level, as well. “Clearly in our factories it’s a big advantage to us to avoid food waste.”
The Global Food Forum is one of many events that take place throughout the year with a focus on the food industry. At Choco, we keep our finger on the pulse of the food world by attending events like the Global Food Forum to hear from the experts. Stay up-to-date with Choco by following us on Instagram.