FROM FLOODS to droughts and heatwaves to snow drifts, the UK's climate is changing. Food businesses, more than any, need to change with it, says Ashley Clarkson.
April's Footprint had a striking image of a lamb born into freezing weather. A little over three months on and we were basking in record July temperatures. Now into October, the days are shortening and winter will soon be on its way.
But the weather is changing year by year as well as during the year, and that means businesses have to adapt. Some food businesses are already doing so, adapting their supply chains based on recent harvest experiences – especially within the last 12 months. But while the focus of the supply chains manages the risk on weather patterns and availability of product for the market, other factors are also seen as a critical part of this strategy.
For example, political changes in north Africa have affected the traditional supply of out-of-season fresh produce. Also, the potential strike of Colombian workers in the banana industry, which was reported in June, could have hit supplies to the UK. So it is not always about the weather and climate change.
One aspect of climate change to consider for the long term is that it could affect which crops can be grown in the UK as well as overseas. This is potentially both a threat to traditional supplies and also an opportunity in terms of bringing in other countries to grow new products.
Being too reliant on one location for all of one particular product will carry too much risk for businesses. If you are one such business, then you should as a priority consider reassessing your position and establishing links with other parts of the world.
Having a broad supply base will certainly help food businesses take advantage of the established countries of supply and it will also allow them to explore potential new areas for the future. This could be one area that, for example, the coffee industry, should look to exploit. Foodservice companies such as cafés could also try to supply their customers with a range of coffees from around the world to help broaden the tastebuds and experiences of their customers.
Ashley Clarkson is associate director in the Grant Thornton UK food team.