An interview with Lotta Falck: “You can’t just get, you also have to give”
As part of our recently launched book Predicting the Unpredictable – a Nordic Approach to Shaping Future Cities, written by Jonas Gustavsson, President and CEO and Helena Paulsson, Head of Urban Development, we conducted a number of interviews with experts relevant to the book’s subject.
This is an excerpt from the book "Predicting the Unpredictable - a Nordic Approach to Shaping Future Cities".
Lotta Falck is Head of Food & Pharma at AFRY. She has several years of experience in both Life Science and in the requirements and commissioning of factories in the food industry. Former CEO of Olink Proteomics.
What would you say characterises today’s food consumption?
Unique to our time is the increased awareness when it comes to food. More and more people think about food and want to make conscious choices since food has become part of our identity. We are associated with what we eat and we like to communicate it to others, often through pictures in our social channels. It is simply something more than just nutrition.
This means, among other things, that we want to be able to choose exactly the products that fit our lifestyle, wherever we are. The market supply is therefore greater than ever, especially in the big cities. We buy sushi at a local kiosk or we customise our raw food juice with just the right amount of protein. The production must be incredibly flexible to quickly adapt to the latest trend.
When it comes to dairy products, in just a few decades we have gone from producing three types of milk, light medium and whole milk, to a plethora of products. These products have all sorts of flavours and variants of protein and fat, from quark and protein drinks, to allergy friendly alternatives. In order to keep up with this development, the dairy plant needs to have very flexible systems for cleaning and new batch sizes. This is a challenge for an industry with low margins.
It doesn’t sound very sustainable with this extensive product range. How do we get a more climate-friendly food industry?
Both the consumer and the producer must rethink. Some have already begun and therefore we are probably near some kind of breaking point. Regarding the consumption, we are way too spoiled. We want to make climate-smart choices and buy organic, which we gladly pay extra for. But we are not prepared to opt out of the entire range. This means both waste and long transport distances. It is not sustainable. You can’t just get, you also have to give.
With regard to production, packaging design will play a bigger role, something that many have already begun to understand. We see a trend towards delivering larger packages in bulk and where the consumer uses his own container in the store to make his customised choice. The industry also needs to digitalise in order to simplify the processes in the plant. This will provide faster set-up times, more
efficient production and less waste.
We must also dare to challenge our ideas of organic versus preservative. But it’snot easy. Ecological alternatives mean a kinder and non-toxic treatment of our nature. It also means a shorter life cycle and more waste. Something that can be avoided with preservatives where the goods last longer and therefore do not need to be transported as often.
What is positive is that it is becoming more and more common in the grocery stores to sell products with short dates instead of throwing them out. This also applies to fruits and vegetables that are bruised. We also see that more restaurants are starting to take advantage of this and even serve meals made with ingredients that would otherwise be unnecessarily thrown out.”
So, what does the future look like?
We see that our consumption of red meat is decreasing. Fish is becoming more common, especially here in the Nordic countries where we are already used to a fishing culture. The big trend is all the alternative proteins that are produced. But it also comes with challenges, especially where the goods are to be packed. Does the same material used for animal meat work for the alternatives, with its special plastic where the blood can seep out? How long is the shelf life? Should it be frozen or not? I think we will reach a point where a conscious choice is a matter of course for everyone, and where this great supply no longer exists. If it will happen in ten, fifteen or twenty years is impossible to say. We will buy locally and the whole chain will be circular. We will probably look back at this time and laugh and realise that we were not thinking straight. Before we get there, it will be really tough to understand that we can’t actually have everything, everywhere.”