Food Industry, essential part of the food chain, that covers the whole of food production from farm to consumer. In times past, and in times of food shortage, farmers grew crops that they knew performed well on their soil, and which gave them good prices. Now, the first part of the food chain, agriculture, is governed much more by the pull and demands from the other end of the chain, the consumer. Retailers compete for market share, offering a good variety of food products at attractive prices to discriminating customers. The retailers play a dominant role in deciding what they want to buy from the food manufacturers, who in turn look for specific qualities and quantities of raw food materials from farmers.
II FOOD CONSUMPTION
In earlier times, people grew much of their own food, producing sufficient for their own and their family’s needs. Now, people rely increasingly on others to grow and process food. This has led to the development of the food industry, the largest industry in the world. In the United Kingdom, for example, the food and drink sector has an annual value of some £80 billion. In many developed countries, food processing accounts for some 10 to 15 per cent of manufacturing output, with the total food manufacturing and retail sector contributing some 15 to 20 per cent of gross domestic product.
With increasing prosperity and standards of living in many developed countries, people devote a lower percentage of their total income to purchasing food. A hundred years ago, when British consumers lived, on average, for about 50 years, half of their income was spent on food. Now, with our higher standard of living, life expectancy exceeds 70 years, and only 20 per cent of household income is generally spent on food purchases.
An increasing amount of foods being bought are manufactured or prepared. Less well-off people, aware of the essential energy provided by food, spend a higher proportion of their scarce income on food. People with higher incomes, on the other hand, may see food more in terms of enjoyment and look for greater quality, with regard to product ingredients, and greater variety, sometimes alternating between dieting and indulgence. For example, most low-fat milks and spreads are consumed during the week, but are supplemented by an increased consumption of cream at the weekend. People are becoming more concerned with the effects of diet on their health, with those more educated and prosperous making choices based on nutritional advice or perceived health benefits, leading to increased consumption of organic foods, and the use of “functional” ingredients.
Although some foods can be consumed raw, for example fruits and salads, most foods need processing to improve food palatability and safety. To provide a wide range of high-quality, safe food products, retailers and manufacturers use the techniques of food technology, and employ food scientists and technologists to develop and control their operations. (See Genetic Modification of Food). We rely on these professionals to help produce safely the ever-wider range of ready-to-eat food products, heat-and-eat foods, and foods packaged for consumption “on the move”