Rebuilding trust, robotic workers and reducing resources – Compass CEO’s future of food speech

Dominic Blakemore, group chief executive of Compass Group, delivered the 2019 City Food Lecture this week. Here are some of the key quotes from his speech.

On a broken system…

“Food will define the future more than any other sector. It has the greatest impact on the environment and public health. Global demand for food, even today, has over-stretched the system and is destroying world resources. Rather scarily, global demand for protein will increase by around 80% from today’s levels.”

“Arguably, today’s agricultural model is fundamentally broken and it will not sustain the population without destroying the planet in the process.”

On changing diets and data …

“To satisfy the global protein demand increase of 80% our food base will have to broaden with new ingredients, genetically tailored and biologically profiled. It is likely we will have a more plant based protein diet, maybe even eating insects for protein and meat that has nothing to do with animals but grown in a lab. More than anything else it is vital we minimise the impact on the environment.”

“If we think about it, demand knowledge today is unsophisticated which is why we produce an abundance of food based on emotion and preference almost blind to what actual demand may be. Inevitably, this will be better understood in the future by technology predicting what we will eat, and when we will eat it before we know ourselves, driven by complex connections, algorithms and medicine for prevention.”

On rebuilding trust…

“In a recent Edelman ‘trust’ survey, food and beverage showed largest year on year decline alongside automotive of all 15 consumer sectors. 
This has to change. Trust is the currency of the next decade. So how do we build trust? I believe this is through transparency. And how do we have confidence in that transparency? Again, I believe this will be through sustainability.”

“The way we will build trust is through transparency, having a supply chain we can have total confidence in and where consumers can be confident in the sustainable methods used to produce their food. That requires us to be fair with farmers, pay them an appropriate price which enables them to reinvest, and having a shared commitment to the environment, animal welfare and workers’ rights.”

“Today’s consumer wants to feel part of the story rather than just being a consumer of the product. They want to know the origin of food, where it was grown, the methods and environmental impact of how it was produced, by whom and how it arrived at the table in front of them. Nine out of 10 consumers rate ingredient transparency as ‘important’ or ‘very important’.”

On new trends…

 “Food is a way to be adventurous, a way to express their personality, to be social but also be healthy. Food has become about so much more than fuel for survival, it’s a form of identity, part of our social fabric and a hook for digital social media. Just look at the explosion of food selfies or more accurately ‘food- stagraming’.”

“Advancements in robotics are really starting to gain a level of sophistication that could radically change how we operate. Take Mr Flippy, the hamburger flipper that’s more efficient than a human, it started off being a bit of a gimmick and was too slow and unreliable. But now the technology has improved to the extent that our S&L brand, Levy, is using it in sports stadiums in the US – there are six in the Los Angeles Dodgers stadium – and has freed up our people to be more consumer facing. In Boston there is an entirely robotic operated restaurant [called Spyce], which cooks individual meals to order from a menu. We are watching closely.”

On healthy, personalised food …

“… there is an ever increasing consumer demand for transparency into the provenance of the food we put into our body. And this is linked to the explosion of health and wellness in today’s society but we still have a long way to go. Today’s obesity rates have created a national health crisis.”

“Changes in the medical profession will also influence the food industry as we will all likely have personalised diets profiled to our genetic make up and future propensity to disease. The medical profession still has a long way to go to switch to genetic testing and diagnostic prevention rather than the ‘treating symptom’ approach we know today, but even though the current system is diametrically opposed, we are heading down this road.”

On working with Google…

“Google’s approach extends beyond the workplace, they focus on helping staff be their best today, tomorrow and in the long-run by equipping them with the tools and skills to make better informed food choices at work, at home and in the community through ‘teaching kitchens’, ‘farm to table’ and guest speakers. At the heart of it all is sustainability which they strive to build into each aspect of the food programme such as returning over supply back into the supply chain.”

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