Page 30 - Food&Drink July 2019
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Sustainable consumption
Global consciousness is rising around the impact of food production and consumption. Food consultant Sharon Natoli looks at this growing driver of consumers’ food purchasing decisions.
Alignment with the SDGs is a potential way to regain lost ground. Consumer research supports this, with a Nielsen study finding almost three in four consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable offerings. Consumer Technographics data shows nearly seven in 10 millennials actively consider company values when making a purchasing decision.
This is highly relevant given that by 2025, millennials will make up 75 per cent of the workforce, and will therefore inherit significant food purchasing power.
Looking further ahead, this group will be followed by Gen Z, the generation most concerned about global issues, highlighted recently with the popularity and reach of the students strike for climate action.
The businesses exhibiting at Seeds & Chips demonstrates how person and plant health is being incorporated into product offerings.
Vertical farming systems enabling greater access to fresh food while reducing the use of natural resources, and food products developed from waste arising as a by-product of other food production systems were two examples.
New cereals and crackers developed using grains grown in a more biodiverse system, snacks made from mushrooms grown in recycled coffee grounds and foods dried
naturally using airflow and solar energy showed products on the cutting edge of innovation.
We already have evidence that investment in sustainability as a concept is paying off. Chocolate and coffee brands making sustainable claims, for example, grew up to four times faster than the average for the category between March 2017-2019.
Unilever’s sustainable living brands grew 46 per cent faster than the rest of the business while delivering 70 per cent of the company’s turnover growth in 2017.
As we look to the future, considering ‘health’ as more than nutrients and ingredients, and ‘better for the planet’ as more than organic and packaging, is the way forward for businesses looking for growth and relevance.
It is also a smart strategy for those looking to align more closely with consumers changing values and to develop a point of view that can be shared with the market. ✷
HEALTH and wellness have been key factors influencing food preferences for decades. While concern about the impact food choices have on the planet is more recent, it is a rapidly growing addition to the equation. Not only have both of these factors become more mainstream, consumer expectations are also evolving, making it more challenging for food providers to keep up.
The way consumers define food as ‘healthy’ for example, is no longer simply about nutrient content or ingredient adjustments, star ratings or ‘free from’ claims. While these elements will continue to play a role, they are now joined by transparency, locality, storage conditions and seasonality.
Similarly, ‘good for the planet’ is no longer just about organic or recycled packaging. It incorporates concepts such as biodiversity, regenerative agriculture, water and energy usage.
These changes indicate it is timely to consider how we address the many layers consumers are drawing on to determine whether a food is good for them, and the planet, or not. By doing this, food
businesses will not only be keeping up with a significantly more informed consumer, but will be in a stronger, more future-ready position.
One of the key ways forward is to note that as consumer consciousness rises, business consciousness needs to rise to match the values that consumers are using when making their food purchasing decisions.
Many businesses have already adopted this change and this was clearly on display at the Seeds & Chips Global Food Innovation Summit held in Milan in May.
The Summit’s goal was to drive change that will help industry and governments realise the objectives of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
This may sound like a lofty, big picture ideal, however activity in this area has direct relevance to the future growth and long term viability of businesses in the food sector.
Aligning strategy with the SDGs is also a path for those looking to connect with consumers evolving values around health and wellness, and the health of the planet.
It is also useful for food businesses and brands that may have lost consumer trust.
Sharon Natoli works with businesses across the food sector to enhance their thought leadership around the future of food. She is
author of Food for a Better Future. For more information visit www.
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