Transitions in theFood Industry

The production, processing and consumption of our daily food plays a significant role when considering human resources use. For example, the European food industry is said to be responsible for 28 per cent of the global resource consumption and 17 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions.

The Europe food industry thus plays a part in contributing to climate change, loss of biodiversity and soil quality, and scarcity of water. Nutrition thus represents s an important field of action with which sustainable development can be implemented.

Fruit and vegetables from organic farming
In the food industry, too, it is time to rethink: the consumption of local fruits and vegetables grown organically could lep reduce people's consumption of resources.

Nutrition is at the same time an important field of action for everyone. "You are what you eat" – when it comes to our daily nutrition it also is about maintaining health and wellbeing of each individual. More than in any other field of action, this is where the personal, individual level meets the major overarching challenge of environmental pollution and resource consumption.

In this context, the field of action of nutrition is at the same time a very complex product-service-system in a changing society. In addition to the traditional producers and the structures of the retail trade, out-of-home catering, i.e. system catering, school, company catering or even restaurants, is increasingly the focus of research interest. In the context of a sustainable development this offers an important regulation element. Almost all Germans regularly eat every third to fourth meal away from home – with rising tendency Strategies for a sustainable transition in the food industry require comprehensive analyses.

On the one hand, production and manufacturing processes of the individual links of the value chains must be examined, for example by calculating the material flows using the "Corporate Material Footprint" method within the project "Sustainable McDonald's Deutschland". Or central ecological and social challenges must be uncovered, using the method of hot-spot analysis, as was applied in the project "REWE-Navi". For another thing, everyone's consumption patterns are very crucial. For instance, the consumption of meat, meat products as well as milk and dairy products – i.e. highly processed animal proteins – is and will remain a problem. But vegetarian or vegan diets can also pose environmental and health challenges.

The Wuppertal Institute sees itself as a driving force when it comes to defining target values for sustainable nutrition, which, in contrast to the health side, does not yet exist in a binding form for the environmental impact of daily nutrition.
Against this background of this discussion, the Nutritional Footprint was developed as an instrument for the assessment of individual meals. It makes it possible to identify health and environmental impacts simultaneously. The method is constantly being further developed.


Katrin Bienge

Tel.: +49 202 2492-191


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

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