Where is the new freezer?

Chronicle · Marie Gidlund, Business manager, Sweden Food Arena · 2020-05-29

What is the great innovation of our time around food? Fridge and freezer revolutionized the life of my grandmother. She could store food without having to salt, smoke, preserve, cook - a revolution both in terms of saving time and being able to make use of everything. The entire value chain changed, new logistics chains with freezer transport emerged, the grocery stores received refrigerators and freezers, new products and product segments were developed… All product developers and innovators added enormous creativity. Where is today's freezer?

On June 2, Sweden Food Arena launches the food chain's joint innovation and research agenda. It is our “order” to research funders and politicians where we point to our industry's specific needs in research and innovation for increased competitiveness.

The agenda contains five missions, including that we want to develop the world's most attractive food and drinks for conscious consumers internationally. To get there, we need to get to know our target audience and develop products with them in mind. We must use modern technology to collect and compile large amounts of data from the market in support of the producers upstream in the value chain. When we then produce and deliver, a lot will be about storytelling towards the consumer; origin, method of production, food safety, traceability - from the cow Rosa in Härjedalen to the strawberry grower on the plains of Västra Götaland. Here, the digital technology developed by Automation Region's member companies can offer the solutions we need!

The processing stage consists mainly of small actors, almost 80 percent have fewer than ten employees. They must be able to test, produce and scale up to some kind of more efficient production if we are to be able to compete. Even if they are premium products, they can not be very expensive, we have to produce by margin.

From the industry point of view, we need services for availability and productivity, simple and robust automation solutions that are easy to understand and use. If we look at large-scale producers, I also see how we can develop value chains, from cultivation and breeding to production and distribution, from sea and land to plate and table. The challenge here is the low profitability of the first two stages, primary production and processing. We must ensure that profitability is raised at all levels. Cost efficiency can not only mean larger volumes but we must look at other solutions around flows, nodes and timing.

We need to collect and share data to work with efficiency in production, for example in predictive maintenance and energy savings. The actors have different systems, each of which works well, but not together in a larger system. Here, we have a lot to learn from other industries regarding efficiency and productivity as well as sustainability and ergonomics. Lean and Six Sigma and more philosophies and methods are about working with productivity in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way. There are no contradictions here; on the contrary, it is the combined effects that create the strongest competitiveness.

The challenge is thus not in larger and longer series. We need to focus on quick conversions and short series of flexible production equipment to minimize waste and food waste. This is an interesting challenge given that the food industry consists of a number of very different sub-sectors: dairies, breweries, charcuterie, bakeries, producers of ready meals - just to name a few. Everyone has their production facilities with their own logic, unique customers with unique needs but which together are based on automation and digitization. What we have in common is that we want to develop solutions that inspire us to eat sustainably and healthily. At the same time, there is less and less land that have to be enough for more people, so it is important that we think fast, big and new - and above all, together.

Marie Gidlund
Business manager, Sweden Food Arena