The role of food retailers in improving resilience in global food supply

Macfadyen, Sarina; Tylianakis, J.M.; Letourneau, D.K.; Benton, T.G.; Tittonell, Pablo; Perring, M.P.; Gómez-Creutzberg, Carla; Báldi, András; Holland, J.M.; Broadhurst, Linda; Okabe, Kimiko; Renwick, A.R.; Gemmill-Herren, Barbara; Smith, H.G.


We urgently need a more resilient food supply system that is robust enough to absorb and recover quickly from shocks, and to continuously provide food in the face of significant threats. The simplified global food supply chain we currently rely upon exacerbates threats to supply and is unstable. Much attention has been given to how producers can maximise yield, but less attention has been given to other stakeholders in the supply chain. Increasingly, transnational food retailers (supermarkets) occupy a critical point in the chain, which makes them highly sensitive to variability in supply, and able to encourage change of practice across large areas. We contend that the concentration in the chain down to a few retailers in each country provides an opportunity to increase resilience of future supply given appropriate, scale-dependent interventions. We make ten recommendations aimed at reducing variability in supply that can be driven by retailers (although some of the interventions will be implemented by producers). Importantly, resilience in our food supply requires the restoration and expansion of ecosystem services at the landscape-scale.