Food Supply Chain

What is Food Supply Chain and How Does It Work?

October 17, 2022 Blog

Food supply chains, also referred to as “farm to fork” systems, include all processes that turn foodstuffs (i.e., raw materials) into consumer-ready food products, including sourcing, processing, handling, distribution, and sale, as well as the administration and documentation of these processes.

To manage food supply chains, it is necessary to record a variety of parameters at each link in the chain, including the incoming material quality, processing techniques, storage conditions, and outgoing quality. In order to enable lot traceability, collaborative coordination and optimization of operations, product consistency and quality management, regulatory compliance, and ultimately customer safety and satisfaction, it is essential to synchronise and share this information among all the parties involved along the chain.

The entire cycle a food product goes through, from manufacturer to consumption, is included in the food supply chain. Food is now moved across continents and longer distances. We consumers have become increasingly estranged from the origin of our food as the supply chain has grown longer and more fragmented. Additionally, it implies that a longer chain results in increasing amounts of overall food waste as food is lost or wasted at each link in the network.


The food supply chain is essential in ensuring that the food we consume gets to our mouths without any problems. The world community needs this complex system to preserve the security, sustainability, and safety of food. Although it is created and designed to operate error-free, this cannot always be prevented. There are several things that may go wrong, whether as a result of a system breakdown, human error, or cyberattack.

A single break in the chain, whether it be temporary or long-term, internal or external, can result in product shortages, contamination, or higher prices, which frequently harm the population’s most vulnerable members.


Our food is transformed from agricultural raw materials into safe, wholesome food that we want to consume by a vast network of merchants, processors, and producers before it reaches the store shelves.

The supply chain’s 3 important stages are as follows:

  • Primary production (farming)
  • Processing and manufacturing of the final product
  • Distribution
Process of Food Supply Chain
© Harvard Web Publishing

Even those products that are minimally processed, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, are nonetheless graded and packaged to meet the consumers’ need for acceptable, visually appealing food with a reasonable shelf life.


Below are 4 specific food supply chain problems that we often come across and tips on how to solve them.

  1. Lack of Traceability

Today, many customers expect traceability—the capacity to follow a food product through every step of the production chain—rather than merely requesting it. Many customers today demand to know the origins of all products and substances, even the smallest amounts.

It is now more crucial than ever to have accurate data on your supply chain and food goods. Having and disseminating accurate data from every stage of the food supply chain improves food safety, reinforces brand integrity, and fosters consumer loyalty.

  1. Safety and Quality of products

The demand on producers to create and sell high-quality, safe products is getting worse nowadays. Among the frequent factors we see that have an impact on the efficacy and security of food items are:

  • Transportation delays
  • Poor storage conditions and warehousing procedures
  • Industrial disruptions and
  • Bad weather

A product recall may ruin your brand’s reputation forever and is quite expensive.

  1. Lack of Communication

The food supply chain may be significantly impacted by incomplete information and poor communication. This is due to the fact that there are several people participating in the chain that are only vaguely aware of one another’s behaviour. Ineffective communication breeds mistakes, wasteful practises, and mistrust between suppliers and their clients.

  1. Rising Costs

A food supply chain has several expenses, some of which are more significant than others. Given the sharp rise in fuel prices in Europe, the US, and other parts of the world, energy and fuel expenses are a major issue right now.

Since the epidemic, the costs of logistics and freight have been substantially more erratic. Manpower is a significant issue for many businesses, including restaurants, food services, and agriculture. Investment in new technology might be pricey, but it can have significant long-term rewards. Also keep in mind that delaying modernization can end up costing significantly more in the long term.

Due to the size of these expenses, controlling operating expenses is a continuous struggle.


Future supply chains must meet the tremendous problems posed by a growing population, climate change, and depleting natural resources while still producing wholesome, nutrient-dense food that has been produced in an ethical and environmentally responsible manner. In turn, consumers are becoming more concerned about their health and the environment and are demanding more locally produced, less processed food with a known provenance.

This is resulting in a “circular economy,” which minimises resource consumption and waste while maintaining a constant feedback loop between suppliers and consumers.

Future pandemics and climate change will be factors. Covid-19, if anything, is a warning to get ready and could be the first of many disasters in the upcoming decade. Mass discontent and economic concerns may both be involved, as we saw with social protests in some developed countries.

It is impossible for us to ignore this. Globally, Covid-19 has killed hundreds of thousands of people by infecting millions of people. Despite what politicians may assert, the United States continues to be in a crisis, with a rising death rate in the South and Southwest, which are particularly hard-hit.

Further food supply chain disruptions could have an influence on our food security because crises — such as pandemics, the economy, and civil unrest — typically occur in sets of three.

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