A move to small-scale production, personalised products, and ’smart’ kitchens are some of the developments needed to transform the food and drink manufacturing industry for a sustainable future.

That’s according to new research from Cranfield University's Sustainable Manufacturing Systems Centre, published as Sustainable manufacturing for the future: The journey to 2050: research on the vision and pathways for sustainability in the food and drink industry in Great Britain.

The report is the result of a partnership with Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE) to map the challenges and opportunities in the food and drink manufacturing sector, identifying what needs to be done by the sector and how.

The pathways for change and development, based on the expertise of the Centre and interviews with senior industry and academic experts in the UK and Europe, include:

  • a greater use of sensing technology to monitor the quality of farmland in real-time, ensuring that problems can be fixed immediately, keeping the land operating at maximum productivity and more sustainably
  • Big Data providing a transparent food chain from 'farm to fork’, helping manufacturers to prevent bottlenecks and other issues in supply chains, and consumers via smart labelling on products detailing the food chain and provenance
  • smart labelling’ that allows for interaction with consumers’ smart kitchens that flag up food availability and what needs to be used when, as a way of reducing waste - business models which are service based and personalised to deliver convenience and value moving away from mass production towards making personalised products to order
  • small, local facilities that use technology to synchronise resource availability, supply and demand
  • collaboration between businesses, organisations and suppliers across the supply chain as a key enabler for sustainability - including greater levels of collaboration and co-creation with consumers
  • more leadership to build trust and demonstrate responsibility in order to lead the debate and take action, rather than waiting for consumer pressure on issues around sustainability.

Mark Jolly, Professor of Sustainable Manufacturing and Head of the Sustainable Manufacturing Systems Centre, at Cranfield said: “Faced by challenges around price and availability of resources, the food and drink manufacturing industry needs to undertake a new stage of transformation. Speed, efficiency and customer focus are a given. For long-term sustainability there need to be major changes in the ways in which the industry collaborates and works with new partners in the supply chain, as well as more directly with consumers and society more widely.

Notes for editors

CocaCola Enterprise_study Sustainable manufacturing for the future: The journey to 2050: research on the vision and pathways for sustainability in the food and drink industry in Great Britain.

About Cranfield University

Cranfield University is a specialist postgraduate university that is a global leader for education and transformational research in technology and management.

About Cranfield University

Cranfield University is a specialist postgraduate university that is a global leader for education and transformational research in technology and management.