He challenged everyone involved in the production and supply of food to work in partnership while delivering the keynote speech at the City Food Lecture in London on Wednesday (28 February).
He said this was needed to bring a step-change in the way sustainable, affordable and healthy food was produced in the UK.
He urged the audience of farmers, producers, retailers, wholesalers and their representative bodies, to do this by focusing the debate on “the 95% of what we agree on, not the 5% we don’t”.
“The UK food industry has done a great job of feeding the nation though many challenges,” said Lewis. “But the challenges we face today are complex and evolving. To overcome them, we must seize the future and change.
“Not simple incremental change, but heavy-duty transformational change. The sort of change that means we all have to bring our expertise together and work in a very different way. To feed all of our nation, in a sustainable, affordable, healthy way.”
He said he believed that customers wanted businesses to make “responsible decisions”.
“Quite rightly they deserve higher standards and responsible leadership from all of us. They want us to make the right calls on their behalf,” he added
Lewis highlighted a number of key areas where Tesco was already working in partnership with suppliers, government and other organisations.
He highlighted Tesco’s 10 Sustainable Farming Groups in areas including dairy, pork, lamb, and poultry and eggs. These groups were created to provide a forum to discuss sustainable production and customer needs, as well as having a role in terms of securing supply, increasing efficiency and improving animal welfare.
Tesco’s health initiatives, such as its five-year partnership with Cancer Research UK, the British Heart Foundation and Diabetes UK, were also highlighted – as was its commitment to measure and publish its own food waste data.
The lecture came on the day that the Tesco Booker merger was given the green-light as shareholders of both companies voted in favour of the move.