Now, more than ever, the importance of sustainability within the food and beverage industry has taken centre stage. As consumers’ awareness surrounding the impacts of food production and consumption grows, and the climate crisis continues to be a notable threat, businesses, manufacturers and retailers are coming under increased scrutiny to re-evaluate their business models to make their sustainability profile better, greener and more efficient.
From all stages of the food and beverage supply chain, efforts are being made by companies to reduce their carbon footprint. FoodBev Media explores three sustainability trends that it expects to witness in 2021.
One trend set to develop into 2021 and beyond includes the implementation of eco-friendly and sustainable packaging, with many companies starting to use compostable, recycled or biodegradable materials. In addition to meeting environmental goals, sustainable packaging enhances a brand’s image as consumers become equally concerned about the packaging of products as much as the contents inside.
According to research by Trivium Packaging, nearly three-quarters (74%) of consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable packaging. It is found that most consumers identify themselves as ‘environmentally aware’, with more than two out of three consumers citing ‘environmentally friendly, ‘recyclable packaging’ as important.
Companies such as Ferrara Candy Company has announced that it aims to make all of its packaging 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025, while PepsiCo has committed to eliminating all virgin plastic from its beverage bottles under its Pepsi brand in nine European markets by 2022.
As we move into 2021, we expect to see a continuous increase in plant-based plastic packaging or bio plastics such as biodegradable shrink films that are made from plant-based materials. The environmental benefits of using plant-based packaging are substantial: it requires less carbon to produce, reduces the amount of waste sent to landfill and produces no toxins as it breaks down. Brands already sporting this trend include Vegware and Green Man packaging.
Reducing food waste is crucial to addressing food insecurity and mitigating climate change. According to the UN Environment Programme, roughly one-third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year – approximately 1.3 billion tonnes – becomes lost or wasted. As a result, many brands are finding new, innovative ways to address food loss and waste, in an attempt to foster a zero-waste supply chain.
A trend set to hit the mainstream market, in an effort to reduce food waste, includes the practice of upcycling foods. Upcycling allows food producers to add value to by-products or surplus ingredients that might otherwise have been wasted. For example, Olam Coffee, a subsidiary of Olam Food Ingredients, has developed a range of novel superfruit products using cascara – which is made from the skin of the coffee cherry fruit. Other brands following suit in a bid to tackle food waste include Wonky Veg Boxes, Rubies in the Rubble and Toast Ale. A new study from Future Market Insights, using data published by Rethink Food Waste Through Economics and Data, found that food waste is a booming business worth $46.7 billion in 2019 and has an expected CAGR of 5% over the next ten years.
The global food system is under increasing pressure from the impacts of climate change, changing diets and growing demand for limited resources within a rising population. As these threats continue to develop, consumers’ desires are changing as many are actively looking for brands that promote sustainability throughout the supply chain. According to research carried out by Forbes, 60% of consumers buy products and services from companies that are socially and/or environmentally responsible.
Businesses can take action – and reassure consumers – by managing their supply chain sustainably. To do this, many brands are now adopting better sourcing strategies throughout their supply chains that will give them transparency and traceability. With regards to sourcing responsible ingredients, more companies are focusing on the living conditions and economic viability of smallholders farmers.
Another way that brands are managing their supply chains is through the deployment of sustainable food technologies. This includes the use of drones to pollinate crops, artificial Intelligence technologies to enable automation on the farm and CRISPR technologies in order to boost productivity and food security across the supply chain, while improving farmers resilience and income. More brands are expected to make necessary changes by adopting similar practices to promote a strong and unwavering supply chain.
One food ingredient that has come under the spotlight and will continue to do so, is the sourcing of palm oil. The ingredient is a subject of discussion, mostly due to concerns about deforestation, which in turn endangers animals such as orangutans and the abuse of human rights and child labour. Large consumer goods companies such as Unilever have already taken radical steps in demonstrating palm oil supply transparency that could prompt others in the industry to follow suit, resulting in widespread change.
The World Food Innovation Awards 2021 has two categories dedicated to sustainability: ‘best CSR/sustainability initiative‘ and ‘best sustainable packaging‘. Think your product or initiative has what it takes to win? Enter now!
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2021
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