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Freshfel annual event touches on changes to food systems following Covid-pandemic

On our way to a new normal

If the Covid-pandemic did one thing it would have been that it made us more aware of the importance of a healthy diet. Also it acts as an accelerator of change. We are on our way to a new normal. In short this was one of the conclusions of the speakers addressing the topic Consumer responses and expectations in the next decade at last Friday’s (digital) Annual Event of Freshfel, the European fresh produce association. Beth Bechdol, Deputy Director General of FAO, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations that devotes itself to defeating hunger and improving nutrition and food security, touched upon the UN international Year of Fruits and Vegetables 2021 (IYFV).

“It is no small feat in the UN multi-lateral system to achieve full support for either an international day or an international year. It is a real sign of advocacy and a real sign of solidarity around the importance of this particular sector.” 

Transformation
Despite the well-known benefits of consuming fresh produce, Beth has to conclude that due to availability or affordability not always enough is consumed. “While the health crisis highlighted the importance of maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle it also laid bare the vulnerability of our current food systems.” Specifically labour shortages and logistics proved to be issues. 

“We also need short, more inclusive supplying value chains to help recruit market opportunities.” Moreover she believes digital technologies will play a critical role as well as taking a more innovative approach to increasing the shelf-life of fresh produce. 

No jumping back
“Covid turned out to be an accelerator of change,” concludes Hanni Rützler from Future Food Studio Hanni Rützler. “There is no way we can jump back. There is a new normal emerging now. There has been a profound change in society and due to that the economy will change as well.”

For instance Hanni, sees that the pandemic changed the way consumers shop. They are shopping less frequent but more planned. They also started cooking themselves again. “Some of these changes will stay because the consumer appreciates the freshness and good taste.”

Another result of the health crisis is that e-food is changing the food culture very fast. “This development is bringing a big change. Supermarkets are very strong and will be, but alternatives are growing.”

New style
Hanni thinks that the crisis gave a strong impetus for us to focus on health and wellbeing. One of the food trends that was increasing before the pandemic is snackification. Due to the changes consumers have experienced they are moving away from this trend and towards meal-structure, like in the old days but with a new style of food.

Click here to read the Freshfel Europe Activity Report 2021


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