What’s Top of Mind for the Food Industry?
A recap of the most popular industry topics for 2022
By iFoodDS Team
January 3, 2023
2022 has been a year filled with change in the form of both challenges and progress for the food industry. The FDA finalized FSMA Rule 204, a regulation that Frank Yiannas has called “a landmark rule” and “a gamechanger for food safety.”1 The food industry also contended with inflation and supply chain issues in 2022, as well as ongoing labor issues. Through all these struggles, the industry has remained focused on long-term goals such as increased food safety, sustainability, and delivering consistently high-quality food to consumers.
iFoodDS took some time to review the year and would like to share our own perspective on what we felt were the industry highlights for 2022.
The FDA finalized FSMA Rule 204 in November 2022, which established additional recordkeeping requirements for foods on the Food Traceability List (as determined by the FDA). Although the rule only requires entities to record and maintain records for their own step in the supply chain, Frank Yiannas stated in a recent FDA webinar that Rule 204 is “just the beginning of achieving end-to-end food traceability.” The key here is the requirement to capture data points (Key Data Elements) at each point of the supply chain.1
iFoodDS agrees that end-to-end traceability is the future of enhanced food safety. When a food item’s path through the supply chain is connected to relevant food safety data every step of the way, we can proactively manage risks and dig into the root cause of issues. iFoodDS recently wrote about this in an eBook that can be downloaded for free here.
When looking at what was most popular on our own blog, we noticed strong interest in traceability content throughout the year. In fact, our most-visited blog for the year was “Are You Prepared for Rule 204?” – read the post for an overview of FSMA Rule 204 and some steps you can take to prepare for the enforcement date of January 20, 2026. You can also learn more about the rule, including what KDEs you may be responsible for and ideas for collecting those KDEs, in our Rule 204 Hub.
Sustainability and Food Waste
The industry has been focused on sustainability in 2022. Major retailers like Kroger and Target have pledged to make their private label packaging recyclable, reusable, or compostable2; Ahold Delhaize named its first Chief Sustainability Officer3; and Fresh Del Monte became the first produce company to join the Pacific Coast Food Waste Commitment’s goal of reducing and preventing food waste by 50% along the West Coast of the United States by 2030.4 This is just a sample of the combined efforts of entities across the supply chain. Sustainability is not just an industry initiative either – consumers are also prioritizing sustainable products and lifestyle choices.
iFoodDS has been closely following the industry discussion on this topic. We thought The Packer’s 2022 Sustainability Insights Report was a comprehensive and insightful summary of consumer attitudes towards sustainability. We’ve also seen a lot of reader interest in many of our sustainability-focused blogs, such as “5 Strategies to Reduce Produce Shrink in Your Grocery Stores” and “How to Minimize Food Waste and Build a More Sustainable Grocery Retail Business.”
We anticipate this being a major trend for 2023 as well, and we will continue to follow this topic and contribute to the industry discussion on it.
COVID exacerbated ongoing labor issues in the food industry, and we continued to see a lot of industry discussion about labor and employee retention in 2022. We especially appreciated Supermarket News’ in-depth analysis on labor trends in the grocery retail industry. The report found that retailers are seeking to improve labor retention by adjusting wages, adding more paid holidays, and recognizing employee achievements and milestones. At the same time, retailers are investing in automation technology so that their teams can spend less time on menial tasks and more time interacting with customers.
iFoodDS knows first-hand how technology can empower teams. Many of our customers have given us feedback that our digital supply chain solutions have improved their team’s efficiency and helped them better manage food safety and quality programs. iFoodDS also acknowledges that the factors leading to labor shortages are complex and require a multi-pronged approach from retailers; technology alone won’t solve these issues. We presented some other ideas on how to mitigate labor shortages in a blog earlier this year, and this post generated a lot of interest. More recently, we wrote about ways grocery retailers can engage their QA teams.
The Impact of Technology in the Produce Industry
The post-COVID era has seen an acceleration in certain trends such as ecommerce grocery shopping and virtual food safety audits, but technology has been transforming the produce industry for years. In 2022, we saw an increased focus on process automation and increased data visibility. This makes sense given recent labor shortages and the new requirements under FSMA Rule 204. Digital tools can help efficiently collect and instantly share traceability data.
iFoodDS sat down with DNO Produce earlier this year to discuss the impact of technology in the produce industry. We touched on a range of areas where technology can help, from employee retention and training to building consumer trust through transparency. The consensus was that real-time food safety data will become the next major trend in the industry. Read the full discussion recap and watch the video recordings here.
Food Safety Culture
There was a lot of interest in the concept of food safety culture in 2022. Since culture impacts every member of your team, it has the power to influence the overall direction of your company. When you foster a true culture of safety, you will find it easier to meet industry standards and regulations because compliance will become a daily habit for your team. The most difficult part of adopting a food safety culture is the initial transition period. Dr. Bob Whitaker discussed a model for changing your culture in a guest post earlier this year. Our own team also wrote about how to create a food safety culture.
The State of the Food Industry in 2022
Overall, the food industry faced many complex situations in 2022. From ongoing labor shortages to the impact of food inflation, it has been a challenging year. Yet the industry has demonstrated its resilience, resourcefulness, and dedication to delivering safe, high-quality food for all. iFoodDS looks forward to the new year and the opportunities it will bring to advance key initiatives such as food safety, quality, traceability, and sustainability.
1. FDA, “FDA Webinar on the Food Traceability Final Rule,” December 7, 2022, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=flUW3cE0dAw
2. Amanda Baltazar, “Retailers launch new packaging initiatives in the produce aisle,” August 1, 2022, https://www.thepacker.com/news/retail/retailers-launch-new-packaging-initiatives-produce-aisle
3. Progressive Grocer, “Ahold Delhaize Names Chief Sustainability Officer,” August 3, 2022, https://progressivegrocer.com/news-briefs?created_1=2022-08-03T08%3A49%3A28
4. Produce Blue Book, “Fresh Del Monte joins public-private partnership to reduce food waste,” September 15, 2022, https://www.producebluebook.com/2022/09/15/fresh-del-monte-joins-public-private-partnership-to-reduce-food-waste/