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Reading the room: The future of food according to the 2024 GFSI conference

Stuart Kelly Chief Commercial Officer View Stuart's profile

It’s the annual Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) conference, we’re in the heart of Singapore, and we’re also at the heart of important conversations around meeting food safety needs in our evolving world.

For those unfamiliar, the GFSI conference is an annual forum for world-leading food industry professionals to engage with the challenges and opportunities shaping the sector. LRQA has a long relationship with food as a leading global assurance partner. That said, nothing is taken for granted here, and despite our deep expertise, the conversations had at the event proved how critical it is to stay one step ahead in a sector as dynamic as food. 

Reading the room and the headlines 

If you want to see the pace of change, just look at recent media coverage. Forbes reports that, as Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) factors gain mainstream momentum, consumers are turning to organic food in pursuit of healthier and more sustainable options – driving a huge expansion of the market (estimated to almost double from USD 227.45bn in 2023 to 437.4bn in 2026), plus increased pressure on supply chains, and on firms to deliver and verify sustainable operations.  

In fact, LRQA only recently announced a partnership with McCain for their new limited-edition Naked Oven Chips made from regeneratively farmed potatoes. LRQA will verify McCain’s implementation of regenerative agricultural practices and marks just one example of our clients responding to changing expectations around mainstream food production.  

Further coverage points towards the future of food hinging on data to accurately measure the industry’s impact from “energy usage, resource consumption, labour and total Greenhouse Gas emissions from the creation of the product itself as well as its manufacturing, distribution and disposal.” Beyond measuring impact, data is also about enabling supply chain visibility. The journey from farm to fork is vast and fragmented, and data and analytics are tipped as the key to unlocking a fuller picture. 


Compliance to competitive edge 

These trends completely align with the conversations had by the LRQA team at the GFSI conference, around how we can work together to keep pace with change in the industry and how to add value beyond traditional auditing. Audits are an important part of what we do and enables clients to demonstrate compliance with regulatory and industry best practice, but through a data-driven approach, we are helping clients achieve better visibility, prioritisation and crucially, tailor-made risk mitigation strategies. 

The hunger to be more dynamic and responsive to real-time issues meant there was avid interest throughout the event in LRQA’s supply chain intelligence platform – EiQ. It really is an industry-leading and world-first solution in terms of end-to-end supply chain due diligence. Through machine learning, robust data from onsite audits and trusted research, EiQ’s capability really shone and there were some incredibly positive conversations and feedback around how the tool can help monitor and manage supply chain risks in real-time, driving competitive edge and early interventions to prevent brand and reputational challenges.  

Whilst EiQ is primarily aimed at responsible sourcing programmes, its core value lies in supply chain visibility which could not be more relevant for the food industry. Combine its analytics power with data from audits, product recalls and other key metrics for the sector, and the potential is limitless. Demonstrating the tangible power of EiQ, connecting clients to solutions, showing the opportunities that can be born from risk management, that’s where conversations really came to life. 

A new era of risk management  

LRQA’s expert voice on food – Kimberly Coffin – took the power of data a step further through her Tech Talk at the GFSI Conference, urging people to not just consider quantity of data, but the quality. She outlined where the data with greatest value exists and how it can be captured, analysed to identify signals of vulnerability, and used to assess the efficacy of existing risk controls. 


Covering both macro-trends in the industry as well as candid and practical guidance on aggregating large amount of meaningful data to inform risk strategy seemed to be appreciated by the audience. Put simply, our clients sell food. They have to ensure it is safe, sourced responsibly and ethically, at the right quality and in time to meet the demands of an increasingly particular consumer base. We were able to cover how we can support all of those requirements in a data-driven, cost-effective and risk-based way. 

GFSI was an opportunity for the industry to have frank conversations about the current challenges, as well as an opportunity for LRQA to paint a compelling vision of Assurance 4.0 – the new era of risk management, that leverages continuous assurance, solution-based partnerships, on-the-ground expertise and data-drive insights to drive opportunity. As the industry evolves, LRQA remains at the forefront, empowering clients to navigate risks with confidence and resilience, shaping the future of food safety and assurance.