Top of the food chain: Product services in the food industry

Andrew M. Dixon, Matthew Simon

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


    This paper aims to describe the environmental impact of the food industry supply chain and explore the potential for new product-service systems in the food sector, which has not been subject to a great deal of eco-design research. Data from a cross-sector analysis of UK industry, concentrating on the sectors representing the food industry supply chain, is utilised. These sectors are agriculture, food processing, retailing, food services, and kitchen equipment. The analysis combines economic and environmental data from the UK Environmental Accounts with information on design activity in the sectors, focusing on life cycle impact - the labour, energy and materials used by sectors, their emissions and environmental expenditure. Product design is related to the consumption experience - the relationship between the consumer and the product. It emerges that changes in food consumption patterns will shift the balance of environmental impact and affect the long-term sustainability of the sectors. For example, the use of kitchen appliances such as breadmaking machines and juicers shift processing into the home, amounting to a redistribution of energy use from industry to the home. Furthermore, these activities may increase consumption of food ingredients (leading to growth of the food industry) and may also impact upon diet and health. Future product-service mixes will require to an increase in the labour and a reduction in the (process) energy content of food products. Examples might include modular food products, food products that promote social eating, local production and consumption, organic agriculture, bought in domestic catering services and enhanced consumption experiences. Perceived conflicts between sustainability and product design and marketing can be seen as challenges to be tackled with creativity and initiative.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationSustainable Services Systems (3S): Transition towards sustainability? (Towards Sustainable Product Design 6)
    Publication statusPublished - 2001


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