Feeding the City: Smart Solutions for the Food Supply Chain

Our urban landscape is changing. By 2050, two-thirds of the global population will live in urban areas, with deep implications for how we source our food.

So far, those in charge of the built environment have focused on mitigating the pressure on accommodation, retail space, and congestion. This means less attention is paid to logistics provisions and transport projects in urban areas—an approach that can only generate an urbanization paradox.

Now, planners, architects, politicians, and administrators are being forced to evaluate how to repurpose existing space to meet our future needs. It’s clear that a new approach is needed to serve these growing urban communities and sustainably provide them with necessities—like food.

Challenges of Feeding the City

Prime Locations Losing Their Purpose

Photographer: Hrach Hovhannisyan | Source: Shutterstock

Over the last 20 years, the internet has driven new behavioral trends in terms of shopping. Consumers are choosing online marketplaces over the high street, leading to many store closures over the past couple of years.

For example, John Lewis, a major retailer in the United Kingdom, has expressed concerns over its struggling high street shops, which might meet the same fate as similar U.K.-based department stores like Beales and House of Fraser.

With consumers moving online, retail centers and parking lots are emptying. This means more space is opening up in cities—and that space is valuable in a world of growing urban populations.

Congestion and Air Quality

Photographer: Bikeworldtravel | Source: Shutterstock

A growing urban population means greater congestion with more people moving around the city. It won’t take long for government bodies to start disincentivizing certain transportation methods through taxation and travel restrictions to decongest our city streets.

Currently, food is transported from suppliers to the city by truck. Research shows commercial freight vehicles represent 30 percent of all central London traffic and make an estimated 281,000 journeys per day. But the idea of countless trucks coming into the city every day, polluting our streets, and contributing to global warming is increasingly unpalatable and will soon be unacceptable.

Outdated Wholesale Model

Photographer: Kiselev Kirill | Source: Shutterstock

The traditional food wholesale model is based on stocking large quantities of products to resell to food buyers with no regard to where it comes from or which producer supplied it. There is heavy infrastructure in the mid-stream section of the food supply chain, with fleets of trucks and huge warehouses in city perimeters. What’s more, the traditional delivery model is based on trucks entering the city during the day—majorly contributing to urban congestion and air pollution.

But because no other player has disrupted the food supply industry, traditional wholesalers have enjoyed their monopoly and have never been compelled to innovate.

This is where Collectiv Food steps in with a new, progressive solution for the food supply chain.

Fixing the Food Supply Chain

It is time for an alternative to the opaque and unsustainable wholesaler model. Collectiv Food’s approach gives purpose to underused urban areas and contributes to a reduction in traffic congestion and air pollution by using Points of Distribution (PODs).

PODs are temperature-controlled, fully refitted containers filled with food orders and positioned in key urban locations. We avoid contributing to daytime congestion by transporting products close to the city at night, when the streets are quiet.

One of Collectiv Food’s PODs | Courtesy of Collectiv Food

To cover the last mile of the journey to customers’ doors, Collectiv Food partners with other businesses (such as utility van and removal companies) that make city trips with empty vehicles during the day. They take our products to our customers in the morning, then go about their own work.

By making use of empty vehicles that are commuting into the city regardless, we can take excess supply trucks off the road during the day, reduce congestion on crowded streets, and contribute 50 percent less CO2 and particulate-matter emissions to our city air.

Leverage Vacant Spaces

The newly available spaces that have opened up in cities can be repurposed for the food supply chain. Collectiv Food places PODs in these unoccupied urban areas, putting them to use for local businesses.

One example of this is our collaboration with REEF, the neighborhood innovation company transforming parking lots into neighborhood hubs, in the heart of London’s financial district.

Create Food Supply Transparency

Customers are increasingly interested in food provenance, meaning they demand greater transparency on who supplies their products. The traditional wholesaler does not provide that transparency, as the model leaves no room for clear traceability.

However, Collectiv Food’s food supply model is completely transparent. The food we source from suppliers is fully traceable so that restaurants can make informed choices on the products they want to incorporate into their menus. Consequently, consumers get full clarity on where their meals come from.

Collectiv Food’s Approach

Our vision is of a fair and transparent food supply chain, driven by quality and sustainability that is available to all.

Our delivery model is completely transparent, our food can be fully traced to the source, and our service builds trust in restaurant businesses and ultimately consumers. This is Collectiv Food’s solution for feeding the city.

Collectiv Food is London’s fastest growing food supplier, sourcing great quality products directly from producers and delivering to professional kitchens. With our innovative delivery model, we’re able to offer market-beating prices and a reliable service, all underpinned by a commitment to sustainability.

With 20 years’ logistics experience, mostly gained in the food supply chain, Lucas Dawe’s expertise is a unique blend of operations, food and beverage needs, and consumer technology. His drive for efficiency and problem solving comes from his days running operations in submarines for the Royal Navy. Today he is driving the innovation behind Collectiv Food’s delivery methods toward leaner, greener, and more customer-centric models.


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