The storm created by Brexit, Covid 19, and the invasion of Ukraine looks to be reaching a crescendo in 2023. And nowhere more so than in the food industry, where the just-in-time supply chains are complex and global, and raw ingredients, energy and labour are tricky, to say the least.
Food processors’ energy costs for heating, chilling and freezing, as well as running processing machinery, have already soared and are expected to soar again. Although businesses have had energy costs capped until April 2023, industry groups are warning that more action is needed.
Possible production line solutions include heat recovery systems that use heat produced in areas such as refrigeration to power heating and hot water systems, resulting in significant cost savings.
Training workers to get the most out of new and existing machinery can also save time and money.
The Brexit effect on sourcing important raw ingredients has been further exacerbated by the war in Ukraine and sanctions on Russia.
The world is used to relying on Ukraine and Russia for large percentages of its wheat, barley, corn and sunflower oil.
And farmers the world over are facing shortages of conventional fertilisers, of which Russia is the biggest global producer. In the UK, chicken has become more expensive, with no Ukrainian chicken feed, and no Ukrainian poultry workers to man plants in countries like Poland.
Solutions mean finding alternatives to particular scarce ingredients.
There are real problems for farmers who cannot get hold of fertiliser, most of which comes from Russia, and is made from fossil fuels. The UK’s only fertiliser producer, CF Fertilisers, was forced to temporarily halt production at its Billingham factory due to the high price of natural gas. This means more issues for food processors, who rely on CO2, a fertiliser by-product, for processing.
One alternative that could revolutionise fertiliser use in the UK is polyhalite, a ground-up rock, of which the UK has the world’s largest deposit. Production for this is expected to kick in in 2024.
Due to Covid and now the war in Ukraine, the expected stabilisation of the UK labour supply caused by Brexit has not materialised. Labour shortages across the board mean workers can pick and choose their jobs, and the food industry is having trouble competing for people.
As the price of food shopping soars, consumers are changing how they eat. Many are opting for takeaways at home, rather than eating out, and spending less on food as they struggle to pay energy bills. Automating productions can reduce labour needs.
Turners can’t solve the consumer spending and ingredients challenges, but we can help reduce energy costs and improve labour efficiency. No matter the size of your food process business, Turner’s in-house expertise can design and develop innovative solutions to enhance the efficiency and productivity of your production lines, from the start of production right through to waste management and packaging.