Sustainability has been creeping up the agenda in many industries over recent years – and in food, it has become fully ingrained and a non-negotiable for many consumers. From practices and processes to packaging and products, improvements and progress are being sought at every stage and in every aspect of the supply chain. Here, Francesca Angiulli, group sustainability manager at Puratos, takes a closer look at these “less-talked-about” sustainability trends and how manufacturers are catering to evolving buying behaviours.
It started with a rise in popularity of organic foods: growing crops and rearing animals more “naturally” and more sustainably drove the “local” food movement. This has now morphed into an expanding plant-based movement, with more consumers adopting vegetarian, vegan or flexitarian diets. But consumer focus now extends beyond the food itself.
According to new global insights from Puratos’s proprietary Taste Tomorrow research programme, 31% of consumers listed sustainable packaging as their highest priority when it came to looking for more sustainable food options. This was closely followed by fair prices for farmers and minimising waste and pollution, both cited by 28% of consumers worldwide.
Harnessing the power of sustainable packaging
Food and packaging waste are top concerns for today’s shoppers – and many are looking for ways in which they can reduce both. In fact, nearly three in four (73%) now believe all food products should be sold in sustainable packaging, and 63% aim to limit single-use packaging when buying food, according to Taste Tomorrow.
Most food packaging is directly disposed of after use (95%), and only around two-thirds enter recollection systems. To raise this proportion, improved recyclability is imperative.
Again, progress can be, and is being, made throughout the supply chain. Aiming for 100% recyclable packaging by 2025, granola bar producer Nature Valley, for instance, is making its Crunchy bar wrappers ‘store drop-off recyclable’. The recycled polyethylene film can be turned into playground equipment, decking, fencing and furniture.
Ingredients providers, too, have a role to play. In line with its objective to become a zero-waste-to-landfill business worldwide by 2030, Puratos is lowering single-use plastic volumes and reusing packaging materials as much as possible. Furthermore, all its packaging will be 100% reusable or recycle-ready by 2025, with fewer chemicals and less energy used in its manufacture.
Understanding demand for zero waste
The world currently wastes a third of the food it produces due to poor production and preservation practices. With global food systems accounting for over a third of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the climate impact of these inefficiencies cannot be overstated. According to the latest Taste Tomorrow findings, around two-thirds (65%) of consumers worldwide say they have an interest in food products that claim zero-waste.
Although there is short-term financial pain when it comes to making a switch to more sustainable food systems, the long-term gain cannot be underestimated. For example, cutting food waste is estimated to cost $30 billion, but $455 billion is expected to result from the commercial opportunities of waste reduction.
Puratos’s Acti range of enzyme-based bakery improvers have been designed to not only improve the texture of cakes and sweet baked goods but to help customers lower food waste, as the shelf-life is extended by enhanced freshness. Puratos also provides customers with recipes that are proven to lower their food waste. For example, its brioche loaf recipe uses ingredients that can reduce waste by up to 50% compared to traditional recipes. Using Life Cycle Assessment Product Environmental Footprint (LCA-PEF) methodology, which quantifies the environmental impacts of products and organisations, Puratos calculated that for every 100 tons of brioche produced using their recipe, the reduced impact is equivalent to planting 2,224 trees.
Sowing the seeds for sympathetic and fair farming practices
With agriculture contributing to one-third of global GHG emissions, promoting more sustainable practices, such as regenerative farming, is a critical route to more secure and sustainable supply chains for future generations. And awareness is on the rise of the pivotal role better agricultural practices play in mitigating climate and social change. In fact, 68% of consumers worldwide are interested in food products coming from sustainable farming methods and 65% look for food where they know farmers receive a fair price/living income, according to Taste Tomorrow.
One organisation that is championing regenerative, ethically responsible farming is PepsiCo. By implementing more sympathetic practices across seven million acres, the food and beverage giant estimates that it will eliminate three million tons of GHG emissions by 2030. By this date, it also aims to have improved the livelihoods of more than 250,000 people in its agricultural supply chain.
Boortmalt, the world’s leading malting company, is working directly with farmers to optimise farm management practices, such as leveraging digital tools to measure emissions and reduce carbon footprints.
For its part, Puratos is helping to drive progress in this space by working with farmers who apply regenerative agricultural practices, creating more resilience and better biodiversity through healthier soils and enabling them to invest in long-term value creation. Through the EU’s Mission Soil Manifesto of the EU, it has joined forces with like-minded organisations to champion soil health, conserve natural resources, and foster a resilient and sustainable food system.
The company also aims to create a more sustainable social future for its farmers, for example, within its own Cacao-Trace programme, which has been designed to redress the imbalance in cocoa profit share, by passing on extra revenue directly to farmers. As well as receiving tools and training to enable higher incomes through better quality cocoa, farmers receive an annual “Chocolate Bonus”, a quality premium paid by Cacao-Trace customers, which represents a fair share of the value created in the chocolate supply chain.
Further to this, Puratos now helps food manufacturers to measure and demonstrate the environmental impact of their own products through digital traceability. When using some ingredients, a QR code can be included on finished products, which leads consumers to information about the product’s origin, provides details of the farmer who harvested the ingredients and outlines our contributions to their community. This ensures everyone involved in the ‘downstream’ decision-making, from manufacturer to consumer, can make more informed, conscious purchases. After all, information is power.
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