Food innovation and sustainability

Food innovation and sustainability

I recently gave a keynote on the 2nd Philippine Food and Beverage Manufacturing Summit a few weeks ago. I spoke about the future of the food and beverage industry, and true enough, food innovation has become a buzzword in the current times, and for good reason. With the increasing population and dwindling natural resources, food production has become a major concern, especially in the Philippines, which experiences natural calamities such as typhoons half of the time each year. These calamities affect the supply of goods, and we have experienced these many times in the last couple of months, especially last year. Effectively, achieving sustainability in food production has become a significant challenge. Conversely, it also presents opportunities.


Food innovation is the process of developing better ways to produce, process and distribute food. This can play a critical role in achieving sustainability. To appreciate this, it is important to understand the life cycle of a meal — the process that the food goes through to come up with the meal desired. A typical lifecycle covers the following stages: (1) raw materials extraction; (2) processing; (3) farming; (4) manufacturing; (5) distribution and retail; (6) preparation; and (7) meal processing. In this process, it is important to note that waste is generated and, in some cases, fed back into the ecosystem.


Here are some areas where innovation can play a huge part and where opportunities lie:

Waste reduction. One of the most pressing issues in food production is reducing waste. Food waste is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Innovative solutions can help to reduce waste. One example is using technology to optimize the supply chain. Companies can use data analysis to track inventory levels and make better decisions about when to order and how much to order. This can help to reduce overproduction and minimize food waste.

Preservation. Another innovative solution is developing new ways to preserve food. Preserving food is essential for reducing waste and increasing shelf life. Conventional methods such as canning and freezing have been around for centuries, but there are new methods being developed. One example is high-pressure processing, which uses pressure to preserve food without the need for chemicals or high heat.

Raw materials extraction. Innovation can also play a significant role in reducing the environmental impact of food production. The agricultural sector is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, and innovative solutions can help to reduce these and improve the efficiency of food production. One example is precision agriculture, which uses data and technology to optimize the use of resources such as water and fertilizer. This can help to reduce waste and improve yields while minimizing the environmental impact.

Food processing. As the world population continues to grow, there is a need for more nutritious food. Innovative solutions can help to improve the nutritional value of food and make it more accessible. One example is biofortification, which involves breeding crops to be more nutritious. Another example is developing plant-based alternatives to meat. The meat industry is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, and reducing its consumption can have a positive impact on the environment. Plant-based alternatives can provide the same nutritional benefits as meat.

Farming. Another example is vertical farming, which involves growing crops in vertically stacked layers using artificial light and controlled environments. This method can help to reduce the amount of land and water required for food production. Another example is aquaponics, which involves growing fish and vegetables in a symbiotic system. This method can produce food in a smaller space and can reduce the use of water and fertilizer.


Innovation can also play a significant role in improving food security. With the world population expected to reach 9 billion by 2050, there is a need for more food production. Innovative solutions can help to increase food production and make it more sustainable, especially if we take advantage of the available technologies and capabilities.

Kay Calpo Lugtu is the chief operating officer of Hungry Workhorse, a digital and culture transformation firm. Her advocacies include food innovation, nation-building and sustainability. The author may be reached at