Transitions in the Food Industry

The production, processing and consumption of our daily nutrition is a huge factor when it comes to assessing our resource consumption. The European food industry, for example, is said to be responsible for 28 percent of the global resource consumption and 17 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions.

The Europe food industry thus plays a part in contributing to climate change, biodiversityloss, a decreasing soil quality and scarcity of water. The food domain therefore is an important field of action to ensure a sustainable development.

Pizza manufacture
Production line of frozen pizzas at the manufacture of Wagner in Nonnweiler near Saarbrücken. Photo: Kristoffer Finn / laif

The domain food is at the same time an important field of action for everybody. "You are what you eat" – when it comes to our diet it also comes to our health and wellbeing. In this domain the private, individual sphere and the bigger picture of the challenge  of environmental pollution and resource consumption collide like in no other.

The food domain is at the same time a very complex product-service-system in a changing society. Not only common manufacturers and structures of the retail industry are fields of interest, research becomes more and more interested in the outside the home food service industry – system catering, school and business catering or up-scale restaurants. In the context of a sustainable development this offers an important regulation element. Germans approximately have every third or fourth meal outside the home – and counting.

Strategies for a sustainable transition of the food industry need thorough analyses. For one thing, production and manufacturing processes of every link of the value chain have to be examined, as is the case in the material flow calculation using the Corporate Material Footprint method in the project "Sustainable McDonald’s Deutschland". For instance hot-spot analysis had had been applied in the project "REWE-Navi" to dismantle ecological and social conflicts.

For another thing, our consumption patterns are crucial. The consumption of meat, meat products as well as milk and milk products – that being highly processed animal proteins – is and will remain a problem. But also a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle can challenge our environment and health.

The Wuppertal Institute sees its task in giving impulses when it comes to defining target values for a sustainable diet, because so far a binding version of those (in contrast to target values for a healthy nutrition) does not consist.

Against this background, the Nutritional Footprint was developed in order to rate single meals. This instrument allows us to look at both the enviromental and health impact simultaneously. The method is under constant further development.


Dr. Melanie Speck

Tel.: +49 202 2492-302

Fax: +49 202 2492-138


Here you find research activities in the field of transitions in the food industry.