Karl Deily, President and Executive Office of Food Care, Sealed Air’s food and beverage packing business, will be speaking at the inaugural New York City Food Tank Summit, “Focusing on Food Loss and Food Waste,” which will be held in partnership with Rethink Food Waste Through Economics and Data (ReFED) and with support from The Rockefeller Foundation and The Fink Family Foundation on September 13, 2017.
Deily joined Sealed Air in 1981, starting his career with Cryovac in research and development (R&D) working in the applications development group. After 14 years in R&D, he served in various marketing and business leadership roles for both North America as well as the business globally. Named President of Food Care in November of 2011, Deily leads the Food Care division that creates packaging and hygiene solutions which improve food safety, increase operational efficiency, extend shelf life, and reduce resource use and waste throughout the global food and beverage supply chain.
Deily is a former long-term member of the North American Meat Institute Board and a member of the National Chicken Council’s allied leader board. He sits on Clemson University’s Packaging Science and Food Science & Nutrition Advisory Board.
Food Tank had the opportunity to speak with Deily about his work, passion for science, and research into food packaging.
Food Tank (FT): What originally inspired you to get involved in your work?
Karl Deily (KD): I’ve always had a love for science. While getting my Bachelor’s Degree in Microbiology from Clemson University, I found the research into the interaction of packaging and microbiology intriguing. Like most people, I didn’t really know what was involved in food packaging until I was exposed to it. I continued on to get my Master’s Degree in Food Science and decided to do my thesis on optimization of packaging parameters to increase the shelf-life of fresh peaches and shredded lettuce. Fortunately, there was a Sealed Air, at the time it was called Cryovac®, R&D facility right down the road from campus, making it easy to utilize the center’s materials for my research. After graduation, I applied for an entry-level packaging specialist position with Cryovac® in R&D and was very fortunate to land the position. I’ve been in the industry ever since—with Sealed Air for the past 36 years!
FT: What makes you continue to want to be involved in this kind of work?
KD: The science behind food packaging is much more detailed than most people understand. The research and effort that goes into protecting and merchandising food products can be very complex. My wife actually refuses to take me to the grocery store anymore. I spend too much time looking at packaging and products on display. It’s just so intriguing!
FT: Who inspired you as a kid?
KD: My father grew up in a household where no one had attended a university. As the first in his family to even exceed the eighth grade, he put himself through college and was self-made. He attended the prestigious Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to become a physicist and went on to work for DuPont. His story taught me to work hard, be humble, and to never forget your roots.
FT: What do you see as the biggest opportunity to fix the food system?
KD: Using practical, sustainable science coupled with consumer education has the ability to fix a lot of our problems in the food system. Many people are against GMO and antibiotics but it is also important to remember that science is a vital part in solving the issues—it’s not always a bad thing. A combination of logical science and consumer education around that science is part of the answer.
FT: Can you share a story about a food hero who inspired you?
KD: Many of our customers in the food industry are my heroes, especially the leaders who wake up every day with a mission to produce wholesome products to feed the world. Despite the many obstacles presented by special interest groups and changing regulations, these leaders continue to rise to the occasion. For example, Hormel is committed to social responsibility, community involvement, responding to human health issues, and helping to feed the world. Leaders at companies like this inspire me and many others to make a difference.
FT: What’s the most pressing issue in food and agriculture that you’d like to see solved?
KD: Food waste. It always amazes me to hear numbers surrounding food waste and food insecurity around the world. Did you know that one-third of the food produced for human consumption gets lost or wasted? That’s about US$680 billion in industrialized countries and US$310 billion in developing countries going to waste each year. Our global population is expected to increase to 9.6 billion by 2050. That’s over 2 billion more mouths to feed. We cannot afford to be careless with food loss and waste—especially when there are currently hundreds of millions of people today suffering from food insecurity. I’d like to see a food system where we are able to convert all food produced and processed to be preserved into usable calories for a growing and starving population
FT: What is one small change every person can make in their daily lives to make a big difference?
KD: As a consumer, the biggest change is to be cognizant and manage your food. Ninety percent of consumers intend to do something about food waste, yet many people still buy and prepare too much food or aren’t aware of proper storage techniques. Consumers should plan and consider everything from usage and storage, to serving and preparing meals. It is important to utilize portions and freezer-ready packaging and be conscious of expiration dates. There are a lot of ways to minimize food waste and it starts with each of us.
The NYC Food Tank Summit is now Sold Out. Register HERE to watch the livestream on Facebook. A few tickets remain for the Summit Dinner at Blue Hill Restaurant with a special menu from Chef Dan Barber. Apply to attend HERE. If you live in New York City, join us on September 14 for our FREE outdoor dance workout led by Broadway performers called Garjana featuring many great speakers raising awareness about food waste issues. Register HERE.