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How Will Coronavirus Impact the Food Chain?

How Will Coronavirus Impact the Food Chain?

Make no mistake, there will be ripples felt in the food supply chain as the waves of the current pandemic settle. But what can we expect?

It’s a fact, people have to eat. At the time of this writing, the North American food supply chain is more or less intact. There are no obvious signs of shortage, other than the inexplicable absence of toilet paper and perhaps some low cost food staples such as pasta.

It would seem the call for calm and assurances that there’s plenty of supply has not eased consumer anxiety over the potential of their favourite perishable and non-perishable brands disappearing from the shelves.

In our time of “social distancing”, having the cupboard and fridge filled with our food favourites may become critical. We may have to make critical decisions as to what’s really important. We will be double-thinking  gluten-free, sodium-free, dairy-free, no sugar added, plant-based meat, vegan, non-GMO, or rain forest alliance certified products. Not that they aren’t essential to some dietary needs, but for most of us they’re more like “nice to have”.

The largest food brands have been struggling in recent years to maintain their share position. It’s going to be extremely challenging for large corporate-directed food manufacturers to place more stress on their businesses by quickly filling orders and pushing supply-chains to deliver.

Those who are marginal in the best of times will probably not survive, regardless of size. The next four to six critical weeks will shake out the dust leaving a clean slate for those with the foresight, and the resources to fill the gap.

Beyond having an exceptional logistical strategy, the most critical element in order fulfillment is keeping reliable and skilled labor in place. The connection for all supply-chain elements working effectively is people. Maintaining a healthy supply chain labor force is now critical.

Walmart, Amazon, and a host of other companies, particularly in delivery services, have announced they’re hiring thousands.

Ultimately, forecasting has been a critical tool in keeping the supply-chains intact. COVID-19 has tested even the most sophisticated forecasting technology.

Consumers will quickly tire of all the rice, pasta, beans and canned goods they’ve hoarded. We will eventually miss having our favourite indulgences and begin replenishing.

In adding up the variables and thinking through the classic “Bull Whip” forecasting theory, no one it seems has connected the unprecedented dots that make up the whiplash that’s coming.

With respect to those who supply the food chain, what we can predict with relative certainty is increased agility, transparency, and broad contingency plans.

Data on consumer trends, demands and behaviours must be shared – leveraging purchase power through holding back proprietary data won’t serve the industry. Solutions like innovative sharing hubs will build a stronger food ecosystem for everyone.

What happens if man of our food manufacturers, suppliers, and restaurants close for good? Is this the new age of home cooking with an alternative set of cupboard staples? Or an opportunity for entrepreneurs to step in and take advantage of the landscape. Or both?

One thing is for certain though, people gotta eat. What they pull off the shelves and how it got there will be an interesting matter of history.

What Is Silicon Dioxide?

What Is Silicon Dioxide?

Silicon Dioxide: What Is It? What’s It Good For? And Do We Need It?

Ever wondered what that small packet you find in food or supplement bottles is? You know, the one that says, “Do Not Eat” even though it’s found with your food? Well, that’s called a desiccant. Its primary purpose is to absorb excess moisture so fine food particles don’t clump together (the way sugar does).

Its active ingredient? Silicon dioxide, more commonly known as silica, but what is silicon dioxide? Let’s delve into this and other questions.

What is Silicon Dioxide?

Chemically, silicon dioxide is a type of quartz, the fusion of the elements silicon (Si) and oxygen (O). It is one of the more abundant substances on Earth, making up 59 percent of the crust. If you’ve been to the beach before, then you will have seen silica. It’s just that it has a different name there: sand

And even though it’s a “rock,” you’ll be surprised to know that silica is also found in organisms, too. Plants, animals and, yes even us, have trace amounts of it. Chances are you’ve eaten it regularly since everything from vegetables to oats have it.

What Does It Do?

Silicon dioxide is a common substance used in a variety of industrial applications. Everything from ceramics to glass use it in one form or another. In the food industry, silica is most often used as an anti-caking agent. Many foodstuffs, such as sugar and flour, tend to clump together in moist conditions.

Moisture also promotes bacterial growth and can shorten a product’s shelf life. Silicon dioxide prevents this by absorbing excess moisture from the atmosphere. It can be mixed straight into the food or separated into its own container, as is the case with the desiccant pack.

Is Silicon Dioxide Natural or Synthetic?

Since it’s pretty abundant, commercial silica is often derived from natural sources. Natural quartz is obtained from sand mining and then crushed or milled. Further processing may be needed to create purer or finer silica, depending on the end-use.

Is Silicon Dioxide Safe to Consume?

With an artificial sounding name like silicon dioxide, people tend to wonder if it’s safe to eat. The good news is that it is. Health Canada has classified silicon dioxide as food safe. As we mentioned, it is a naturally occurring substance in the body. Besides, any excess silica that we accumulate in the body doesn’t stay there. Instead, it’s flushed out through our kidneys.

It’s also worth knowing that there are many types of silicon dioxide. Rest assured that the kind added into our food isn’t the same one used in making glass, for instance.

Is Silicon Dioxide a Carcinogen?

You might encounter some experts saying that silicon dioxide can cause cancer. While this is true, that only occurs when you breathe in high doses of it. This is the case with certain occupations, such as mining, construction, and sandblasting. When found in food, silica can’t cause lung damage.

Final Thoughts

Silicon dioxide might sound intimidating, but it’s not. It’s a perfectly safe food additive that contributes to food lasting longer and being more reliable to consume.