Despite the growth of German retailers Lidl and Aldi in the supermarket sector, there’s also been a steady growth in the top end of the market.

In fact, suppliers of quality foods destined for M&S, Waitrose and other upmarket stores are flying, believes 4K Systems David Scammell, as the right forklift rentals, storage upgrades and safety audits help them to raise their game.

The Which? organisation have been quick to point out the consistently high standards of businesses like Waitrose, awarding them the honour of 2014 Supermarket  of the Year, and we’ve seen the high expectations of the leading retailers help quality food producers in the South West.

Often, throughput and storage capacity are key materials handling metrics for businesses in the food sector, but dealing with waste, having up-to-date forklift battery charging technology, keeping employees safe, or simply having maximum levels of uptime, can be just as important for the quality retailer. “It shows in terms of damage, cleanliness, errors, employee sickness rates, all manner of ways,” says David Scammell.

[pullquote cite=”Food & Drink Federation” type=”left, right”]The food and soft drinks manufacturing industry (FDM) is the largest manufacturing
sector in the UK, accounting for 16% of the UK’s total manufacturing sector by value. [/pullquote]

By already focusing on quality, Hampshire, Gloucester, Wiltshire, Dorset and Somerset growers are certainly leading the charge, whilst packaging firms are too are  also taking advantage of new techniques and new challenges. Online purchasing may only account for less than 9% of the total UK grocery bill, but at £6.5 billion the values are considerable.

According to IGD Retail Analysis that figure is set to more than double in 4 years, and as the way we purchase changes, so too does the demands on packaging. Some packaging is now a hybrid between that which would traditionally be seen on shelves, and that which is structurally solid for warehousing purposes.

Likewise, a report for pallet firm, CHEP, suggested that as consumers now demand seasonal fresh produce all year round, retailers are attempting to extend shelf life with new technologies that help to maintain freshness for longer periods.

The technology is being used to create ‘active’ packaging, a term used to describe packaging controls the environment of a product. “Active packaging has the potential to reduce food waste by extending time in the supply chain” says the author, “and the shelf life of products giving consumers the longest possible time to buy and consume.”

Researchers at the University of Strathclyde also suggested plastics that change colour as food products begin to go off might also be the answer.