Dynamically predicted shelf-life service : Exploring and evaluating a potential sustainable food supply chain innovation

Abstract: Roughly one third of all the food produced worldwide goes to waste. The global goals for sustainable development set by the United Nations in 2015 call for a 50% reduction of food waste per capita by 2030. We thus face several major food waste challenges that need academic and practical attention. Food loss and waste occur throughout the entire food supply chain, from primary production to consumption. The shelf-life information printed on the package along with the temperature fluctuations (which are linked to consumer behavior, food safety assurance and food quality control) are some of the central aspects related to food waste in developed countries. There is a need for improved shelf-life labeling/communication systems that continuously convey the actual quality of food products and their shelf life in a clear and credible way. The research presented in this dissertation sets out to explore and evaluate the concept and requirements of a dynamically predicted shelf-life service and to provide understanding and guidance for actors involved in sustainable supply chain ventures. The dynamically predicted shelf-life service investigated is a conceptual supply chain information service system for the monitoring and communication of food quality and supply chain operational process quality. Sensors attached to packed food products continuously measure and provide data (time, temperature, position, etc.) to a cloud-based communication system as the food products are distributed along the food supply chain. The data is cataloged and used in microbiological prediction models to determine the actual shelf life of a food product at any given time.The research presented in this dissertation is based on abductive reasoning and a systematic combining approach that uses both qualitative and quantitative data collection methods, such as field tests, experimental work, systematic literature reviews, interviews, workshops and observations. The dissertation includes three research studies and five appended papers, the results of which are analyzed to provide overall key findings.Four key findings/challenges facing food supply chain practice and the foundation of the related academic knowledge are: 1) Lack of accessible and accurate data and information sharing cause food supply chain inefficiency and food waste (in both FSCs and in households); 2) Continuous temperature monitoring close to the food products is essential to providing accurate operational and food quality data; 3) Opportunities for realizing a dynamically predicted shelf-life service; 4) Realization of sustainable food supply chain innovations is needed to reach the United Nations’ global sustainability goals.Interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research is needed to approach the challenges that these findings illuminate. The interdisciplinary research presented takes on the challenge of sustainable development and contributes to sustainable supply chain research and practice by identifying and categorizing critical factors to realize sustainable supply chain innovations. It also proposes a process model for sustainable supply chain innovation creation that includes the fourteen critical factors identified.The research in this dissertation contributes to academia by generating new knowledge in the interdisciplinary intersection between the areas of food quality and shelf life, packaging logistics and supply chain management. Critical factors and food supply chain challenges (from production to retail) that lead to food waste are identified and analyzed to provide new knowledge (both academic and practical) on a detailed level, but mostly on an interdisciplinary and comprehensive systematic level. These findings provides an overall description of food waste challenges in food supply chains and existing knowledge gaps. The research also provides suggestions for further research.