Food Futures

Food Futures

from business as usual to business unusual

How can we develop a food system that is FIT for the future?

"Food Futures: from business as usual to business unusual" is WRAP's ground breaking new report analysing 15 critical areas in the UK food system, from farm to fork, and outlining recommendations for key actions by industry and government.

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How can we develop a food system that is FIT for the future?

The report, which has been developed with leading figures in the food supply chain, includes:

  • The risks to the UK food system over the next 10 years if we don't embrace a business unusual approach to the way we manufacture, sell and consume food;
  • The huge wealth of opportunities that developing a Flexible, Intelligent and Transparent (FIT) supply chain will open to the sector; and
  • How a "business unusual" approach will enable the sector to respond flexibly to changes in demand and weather patterns, with a transparent supply chain that will limit food scares and scandals.

Reading the report
Food Futures is optimised for online viewing. You can navigate the report content using icons at the foot of each page. The report is divided into the following main sections:

  • Executive summary – page 1-2
  • Introduction – page 3-8
  • Topics – page 9-68
  • Conclusions, key trends and recommendations – page 69-76

All of the sources used to develop the report are available in a separate document

Whatever your role in the food supply chain, "Food Futures" has relevant information, analysis and recommendations that will help ensure that your business is FIT for the future.

Just click on the option below that is most relevant to your area of interest to find out more:

Farmers & growers

Agriculture will become a key area of technological innovation in the coming decade. Impacting all areas of the production system, this innovation will be driven by a desire from both industry and policymakers to reduce production costs, boost agricultural output, and adapt to a changing climate. Relevant topics in the report include:


The rise of digital industrial technology is heralding in the fourth industrial revolution ("Industry 4.0"). There are opportunities to develop new products and services, but to deliver this potential the sector will need to ensure the labour force transitions its skill set to match the requirements of these new facilities. Relevant topics in the report include:


Competition from discounters and disruptive new entrants will force the major players to place a greater focus on 'price+' thinking. Alongside this there is an increasing prevalence for smaller, more regular shops carried out locally that will re-shape traditional retail. On-line sales and delivery platforms will accelerate this by allowing smaller disruptive innovators to compete. Relevant topics in the report include:

Hospitality & food service

Families are spending more money on eating out than on food to be eaten at home. In the next decade, menus will be developed with far more appreciation of the potentially diverse nutritional needs and taste preferences of diners. Choice and diversity will move on-line as well, as consumers are able to select multiple dishes from a range of local restaurants to be delivered to their homes simultaneously. Relevant topics in the report include:


Food policy will play a critical role in facilitating and shaping the food chain in the next 10 years. Supporting new enterprises and maximising the economic, social and environmental potential of food businesses; and providing the policy framework to align health and sustainability agendas to reduce the consumption impacts of food, will be key. Relevant topics in the report include:


Conscious household engagement with food has been steadily increasing, with more sustainable, ethical and healthy choices arguably becoming more aspirational and associated with improved quality and taste. In addition, an explosion in food chain data coupled with a growing number of mobile devices and intuitive consumer apps will lead to an era of ultra-transparency. Relevant topics in the report include:

Climate risks to food chain resilience

Climate change will significantly affect the food system - for example through its impacts on agricultural yields, food prices, reliability of supply, food quality, and food safety. How the UK food system adapts to and mitigates its impact on the climate will be critical for ensuring long term food security and supply chain resilience.

For more information see page 9 of the report.

Scaling sustainability standards

Over the past decade, voluntary private sector standards have become the dominant means of embedding and communicating sustainability performance within food and drink supply chains. However the costs of implementation and questions over their actual impact, means new approaches are being developed.

For more information see page 29 of the report.

Food chain data revolution

A revolution in data availability has the potential to fundamentally change the way the food system operates by enabling informed decision making throughout the value chain. However to equitably realise the potential of this opportunity for the entire sector, new relationships, standards and technologies will be needed.

For more information see page 49 of the report.

Farming for the future

Agriculture is becoming a key area of innovation in the food system. Developments include the use of advanced monitoring systems to increase input efficiencies and anticipate production risks, such as adverse weather. Emerging technologies will also challenge established models of production and encourage new entrants into the industry.

For more information see page 13 of the report.

Skills for future food challenges

Training in the agri-food industry will need to evolve to help staff in a diverse set of roles deal with rapidly changing operating environments and new external challenges, such as climate change. These new skills have the potential to give businesses a competitive advantage and help safeguard them from important business risks.

For more information see page 33 of the report.

Industry 4.0 in the food system

Globalisation, product customisation, shorter innovation cycles and cost reduction will drive increased adoption of IT-enabled systems such as automation and The Internet of Things. This '4th Industrial Revolution' is well-suited to the sector, where high levels of product variability means flexibility can generate productivity gains.

For more information see page 53 of the report.

Landscape-scale opportunities

Many issues affecting land-based sectors don't respect organisational boundaries. The need to deliver sustainable land use therefore requires interventions and collaboration at a scale where processes such as pest migration and pollination occur. An emerging technique to deal with these issues is landscape-scale partnerships.

For more information see page 17 of the report.

Conscious food choices

Consumer engagement with food has been steadily increasing with more sustainable, ethical and healthy choices arguably becoming more aspirational and associated with improved quality and taste. In the coming decade product transparency and storytelling will play a positive role in increasing trust and will help address important consumer concerns.

For more information see page 37 of the report.

Intelligent supply and demand

A key driver of waste within the food supply chain are difficulties in managing changes in demand for products - especially highly perishable goods. Through the development and adoption of new processes and techniques, improved demand forecasting can secure improvements in business and environmental performance.

For more information see page 57 of the report.

Alternative feeds and proteins

Global meat consumption is expected to double between 2000 and 2050. Livestock products are a major source of protein, but a large expansion of existing production systems is unsustainable due to high resource needs and impacts on local and global environments. Alternatives are needed to address this key food system challenge.

For more information see page 21 of the report.

Redefining grocery retail models

The landscape of food retailing is changing rapidly. The sharp focus on price, the emergence of new retail models and actors in the UK food market, opportunities for closer relationships across the supply chain, and shoppers who are increasingly prioritising convenience will all play roles in shaping the future retail market.

For more information see page 41 of the report.

Active and intelligent packaging

Advances in packaging materials and technologies have significant potential to deliver reductions in food waste, food safety improvements, brand protection and improved supply chain traceability. Through the use of technologies such as RFID and nanotechnologies, future packaging will help track, preserve and monitor the food it protects.

For more information see page 61 of the report.

Aquaculture expansion

Aquaculture has the potential to be a key source of sustainable protein, however some aspects of current production methods pose environmental and social risks to food businesses and local communities. Addressing these risks requires a range of actions, such as the adoption of new technologies and standards.

For more information see page 25 of the report.

New partnerships and collaborations

To create a more sustainable and resilient food system, businesses are increasingly acknowledging that collaboration is essential for delivering change at scale. Collaborations will include pre-competitive work within industry - but also the promotion of more partnerships with research institutions and NGOs.

For more information see page 45 of the report.

Unlocking new value from wastes

With increasing resource competition and regulatory pressure the food chain will seek to derive as much value as possible from previously underutilised organic waste streams. Concerted efforts by government and industry to implement the 'circular economy' are leading to an increasing emphasis on reassessing the value of by-products.

For more information see page 65 of the report.