“Crisis is the new normal” for the food industry, according to CEOs

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AUTHOR: Molly Long
food inflation

Geopolitical tensions, climate change and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic are forcing the global food industry is continuing to work in crisis mode, according to Carrefour Chief Executive Alexandre Bompard.

For us as CEOs, it means that crisis is the new normal,” said Bompard at this week’s Consumer Goods Forum’s Global Summit in Dublin. “What we have been used to in the last decades – low inflation, international trade – it’s over. It’s not the new world.”

The 2022 Global Summit was focused on how the consumer goods sector could transition from “resilience” to “reinvention” and encourage “responsible growth” moving forward.

One of the biggest issues currently facing food businesses across the board is supply chain disruption – a direct result of problems like the Russian invasion of Ukraine, climate change and labour crises.

Referencing these issues, Unilever Chief Executive Alan Jope said: “I must say I am a bit fed up of living in unprecedented times, I’d like to live in precedented times for a couple of years.”

Another pressure is inflation, which is making it more expensive to grow, manufacture and transport food. Such costs are slowly being transferred to the consumer, prompting worries that the nutrition of lower income families is at risk.

For many of the CEOs who spoke at the Global Summit, the road ahead remains uneven.

“Crisis is probably going to carry on being our norm for some time,” said Jope. “We’re in the foothills of a very substantial global food crisis, we haven’t yet really seen the full impact of that and the mother of all crises is of course the climate emergency.”

Meanwhile Vincent Clerc, a Chief Executive from logistics group Maersk, which transports goods for the likes of Walmart and other big name retail brands, told Reuters inflationary pressures are “unlikely to abate in the short term”.

Clerc, who is the head of the company’s Ocean and Logistics group, added: “Logistics is very energy and labour intensive, and those are two of the areas of the economy that are subject to significant inflationary pressure.”

Even without logistic and supply chain issues, the outlook remains concerning for many retailers – especially following the news that consumers were cutting back on shopping altogether as a means to cope with the cost-of-living crisis.

In comments made ahead of the Global Summit to Reuters, Danone Global Head of Sales Ayla Ziz, said inflation is something “that we need to get used to”.

George Monbiot discusses the future of food production and more with Table Talk presenter Stefan Gates:

George Monbiot: ‘Protein production must move from farm to factory’

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