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Product, Service & Design Innovation
Ellen MacArthur Foundation Challenges Industry:
‘We Must Change the Way We Make Our Food’

The Foundation’s Big Food Redesign Challenge will bring together producers, retailers, startups and suppliers to bring circular food design into the mainstream.

We can and must redesign the way we produce our food to allow nature to replenish itself — which it must be allowed to do in order to help sustain human life on earth. To help accelerate this change, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, in partnership with the Sustainable Food Trust, is launching a challenge that will bring together producers, retailers, startups and suppliers to embrace circular food design.

A heavy industrial reliance on monocultural approaches to growing our food around the world has critically depleted the nutrients in our soil; between the way food is produced and the egregious amount that is wasted along the way, industrial agriculture has not only become one of the world’s biggest emitters of climate-changing greenhouse gases — more and more studies project that current models of food production will not be able to feed the world sustainably in the not-too-distant future.

“We know the problems,” says Dame Ellen MacArthur, founder and Chair of Trustees of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. “The current food system is a key driver of biodiversity loss and accounts for a third of global greenhouse gases. By applying the principles of circular design to our food system, we can create food that regenerates nature and tackles some of our most pressing global issues.”

The past few years have seen an explosion in innovations aimed at [redesigning our food system for long-term resilience — with startups upcycling, 3D-printing, fermenting and cultivating a host of planet-friendlier alternatives to some of our most popular (and environmentally harmful) foods. The Big Food Redesign Challenge will build on this, tasking participants with designing new food products (and/or redesigning existing ones) using circular design principles — meaning they are produced in a way that eliminates waste and regenerates nature. By applying principles of circular design, participants will explore the potential for food to tackle biodiversity loss and address climate change.

Participants will be supported throughout the Challenge, with the first designs expected towards the end of this year. Successful food product ideas will then be invited to go into production and made available in 2024. The Challenge was launched this evening (24 May) in London at the Barbican’s Conservatory, with guests from across the food industry.

The Big Food Redesign Challenge is generously supported with funds raised by players of People’s Postcode Lottery and awarded through the Dream Fund, with additional support provided by the Schmidt Family Foundation.

“We’re delighted to be involved with the global Big Food Redesign Challenge and look forward to stocking our shelves with some of the innovative products that are being created with nature in mind,” says Ben Thomas, Senior Environment Manager at the John Lewis Partnership. “Our customers are thoughtful shoppers who trust us to offer responsibly sourced produce; and we can't wait to hear their thoughts on the new products developed for the Challenge.”

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