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Stellar turnout for Campden BRI open day

14 June 2010

The recent Campden BRI open day held near Chipping Campden proved a highlight on the food and beverage sector's calendar, with the annual lecture presented by FDF President Ross Warburton

Stellar turnout at Campden BRI's Open Day saw many of the food and drink industry's brightest stars out in force. From the British Meat Processors' Association to Northern Foods, British Sugar, Defra, United Biscuits and Marks & Spencer, it was a veritable Who's Who of the sector.

The exhibits were open throughout the day and in the afternoon there was the opportunity to book appointments with key staff to discuss specific issues or for consultation. During the afternoon session, the IATC held several clinics to help companies looking to develop commercial and funding links overseas.

Also of interest was Campden BRI’s new packaging evaluation service. As well as being suitable for the food it contains and the processing conditions it encounters, food packaging must be able to withstand the rigours of distribution and storage - in short, everything that might happen to it from when it leaves the process line until the food is used by the consumer.

Transit testing or distribution performance testing, as it's known, is the evaluation of packaging performance by replicating these distribution hazards and reproducing the damage that might be caused. At Campden BRI, a range of tests are now undertaken, including compression test, tensile strength test, burst test, peel test and drop test.

These tests complement those on analysis of the properties of the materials themselves, and of migration of components into food.

Emma Hanby, Packaging & Manufacturing Section, Department of Food Manufacturing Technologies, Campden BRI, said: ''Despite many innovative approaches to food packaging development and in-factory testing of material performance, there is one crucial area of packaging that is often marginalised: performance during post-factory transit. Research recently conducted by Campden BRI indicates almost 80% of manufacturers have experienced significant damage to pack/seal integrity during distribution.

''Where transit testing does occur, it is not uncommon for it to be relatively primitive compared to other methods. Manufacturers may load up a lorry with goods, send it on a journey and assess the packaging on arrival. This approach fails to take an objective view of the many incidents that can potentially occur during transportation, loading and unloading. But there is equipment available that can imitate typical hazards faced during transit. When deployed scientifically, it is possible to use these tools to conduct tests which monitor a pack’s ability to endure the distribution chain. Methods available to facilitate this include: compression testing, tensile testing, drop testing, vibration testing and Mullen burst testing.

''Taking a strategic approach to transit testing of packaging gives a more accurate picture and can help spotlight problem areas more effectively. It provides a robust framework for packaging development and plays a vital role in reducing the wastage that can go hand-in-hand with distribution. Findings may indicate that alternative packaging materials, or grades of material, need to be used. Or they might point to a need for restrictions during transportation and storage, such as limiting the number of cases which can be safely stacked.

''What’s more, thorough testing can also reduce the risk of manufacturers over-compensating for the risk of damage through unnecessary use of high grades of material. By investing in scientific transit testing of packaging upfront, it is possible to avoid costly problems down the line and create a more focused, intelligence-led approach to packaging development.''

The structure of the day included addresses by outgoing president, The Lord Plumb of Coleshill DL; the incoming president, Prof Lord Krebs Kt; the chairman of the council, Bob Clarke of Fenton Packaging; and director-general, Professor Steven Walker.

But the main talk of the day was given by Ross Warburton of Warburtons: his lecture addressed 'Food in the future', and from the start he was eager to avoid too many predictions, which he described as 'dangerous things'.

''In particular, I am keen... we spend a little time thinking about how the world will appear in 2030 from a food sector perspective,'' Warburton said. ''As many of you know that date is significant for all of us in industry, if only because Defra, our sponsoring Government department, recently set out its vision for a sustainable and secure food system by 2030.''

Warburton went on to speculate about the sort of issues the 52nd speaker at the Campden BRI Open Day Lecture would address in her speech in 2030: ''Well, I think there are some pretty big themes emerging around which there is growing consensus among academics, futurologists, politicians, campaigners and industry leaders: First, there will be an explosion in world population growth in the next 20 years – eight billion by 2030, rising to 12 billion by 2050. All of whom will need to be fed.

''Not an encouraging prospect, when you consider one billion people go hungry today – largely, we all know, through the inequitable distribution of food globally. People will also be living longer and societal demographics will continue to change – particularly in more developed nations – with some predicting that one billion, or one in eight people, will be aged 65 or older by 2030 – double today's figure.

''Even before 2030 we will probably start seeing tangible evidence of the long-term challenges that will be posed to the planet by the impact of climate change – not least through growing global shortages of valuable resources such as water. In fact, the World Economic Forum has already described water scarcity as the “headline geopolitical issue” for the next 20 years.

''With more mouths to feed, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation believes that the planet will need to be producing 50% more food by 2030. But rising demand and climate change impacts also mean that we can expect much more uncertainty and volatility in the price of basic foodstuffs and ingredients in the next two decades. Food security is no longer an issue that we can take for granted in the UK.

''And just to add to the fun, we may also be approaching – or indeed have passed – peak oil production by 2030 at a time when the world's energy needs will have doubled. But if we step away from such detailed – and potentially gloomy – analysis for a moment… we should feel positive about the future because history tells us the food industry has a strong track record of responding quickly to rapid societal change, evolving businesses models to ensure they remain fit for purpose, and of adapting products and processes to meet new and emerging consumer needs.

’’We also know today's food and drink sector is a high value manufacturing industry offering genuine world class capabilities in areas of production, logistics, sales, marketing and innovation. These are our inherent strengths and we will have to continue leveraging them to maximum effect over the course of the next two decades if we are to remain productive, sustainable and, above all, profitable.’’

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