The journey of food from farm to table is not always a simple and straightforward one. It can be a complex system as it involves many parties getting involved throughout the process. Whether that’s harvesting crops from the fields, transporting them to a food processing plant, or manufacturing them into finished products. The 1st part of this 2-part series on food distribution will highlight the earlier phases of this food journey. These are most notably the functions and processes behind food processing and manufacturing. In the 2nd part of this series, the final part of the food journey that sees manufactured products in the hands of consumers will be shared.
But let’s start at the beginning...
From the farm
Like most processes, the first step is often the most important as it gets the proverbial ball rolling. In this case, that means getting the food from the farm. Or more accurately, harvesting the crops. Whether it comes out of the ground, hangs from a tree, or walks, most food needs to be harvested and collected for transportation to be further processed. For most farms, they won’t process or manufacture the finished food products themselves. They’ll rely on food processing and manufacturing firms to process their food products. However, some farms will sell unprocessed ingredients to local grocer’s or at farmer’s markets. The primary aims of processing food are to remove potentially harmful micro-organisms, to make consumption safe, as well as extending the shelf-life of the food product.
Although typically only being involved at the beginning of the food supply chain process, the value of each individual farm remains present throughout. Why? Modern consumers want to know where their food comes from. Reasoning can vary, from ensuring products are of the highest quality, to whether it’s been ethically sourced, and whether there’s any potential health risks in consumption. In some cases, food products from specific regions will also be more expensive because of their rarity and/or superior quality, like Japanese Wagyu Beef or New Zealand Manuka Honey. Therefore, knowing where food comes from can help ensure it’s worth the price consumers are paying for it.
Processing and Manufacturing
Although food processing plants and manufacturing plants play similar roles in the food supply chain cycle, the main difference is the level at which they operate. A food processing plant will convert unprocessed ingredients into shelf-stable and transportable products. This typically involves the ingredients being cooked, dried, smoked or fermented. A manufacturing plant will purchase these products and convert them into more complex products that’ll contain multiple different ingredients. For example, taking vanilla extract (we think Heilala Vanilla make some of the best in the world!) and using it to make delicious baked goods. In both scenarios, value is added to the unprocessed ingredients during the process.