How will coronavirus shape our food industry?

The Coronavirus pandemic has seen industry across the globe change and adapt at unprecedented rates.  At Air Products we have been working closely with our customers in the food industry who, over the past few weeks, have been playing their part in keeping the country going.  As the situation starts to settle, our customers are now looking at the patterns that have emerged as a result of coronavirus, and how these changes will affect the food industry in the long term.

Consumers are shopping less often - and this looks likely to continue - necessitating the need for an extended shelf life.  Consequently, the value of frozen food is increasingly being recognised by consumers looking for the qualities of 'fresh' and healthy.  Frozen food was growing at a rate of 4% per year before the pandemic and has been expected to exceed £10 billion in sales by 2025, reports the British Frozen Food Federation. With the pandemic giving consumers a further reminder of frozen food's benefits, these estimates could increase even further.

Moving forward, we believe that manufacturers will be looking at their internal processes to streamline and economise production.  Our customers are using our liquid nitrogen gas to meet the growing demand in frozen foods, using innovations in temperature control to minimise food waste, enhance quality and reduce microbial spoilage.  Cryogenic tunnel and batch freezers are quick to install, simple to use and give the customer the flexibility to freeze or chill products at a wide variety of throughputs, temperatures and textures – essential in a rapidly changing food landscape.    

Panic buying at the start of the pandemic resulted in an increase in food waste as highlighted in the media.  According to WRAP's recent survey examining UK citizens' approach to food during the lockdown, consumers are adopting smarter behaviours to cut down on food waste, including turning to foods with a longer shelf life. In fact, WRAP reports a 34% reduction in the amount of food that we are throwing away uneaten.  At Air Products, we are seeing an increase in the number of food processors exploring gas flushing as a means of extending the shelf life of their products.

Food Safety

Understandably, food safety is another area of heightened sensitivity. Traceability, safe food preparation and the microbiology of packaged food will all come under more intense scrutiny as practices are reviewed across the board. 

Combine these issues with a growing focus on sustainability, one which was becoming prominent prior to the Covid-19 outbreak, and companies know they must adapt in a way which considers the impact of their production processes on the environment. 

At Air Products we're proud of our long track record of finding innovative solutions to help customers adapt to changing business considerations, and this latest challenge is one we're more than ready to take on. Our innovations in modified atmosphere packaging, Safechill for the reduction of campylobacter, and cryogenic freezing and chilling help processors work more efficiently, minimise food waste and deliver on quality – in short, helping our customers to adapt and thrive.

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