With a busy week behind you and the weekend within reach, there’s no shame in taking things a bit easy on Friday afternoon. With this in mind, every Friday TriplePundit will give you a fun, easy read on a topic you care about. So, take a break from those endless email thread and spend five minutes catching up on the latest trends in sustainability and business.
American eating habits have been the joke of the world for years. The fat, lazy American filling up on junk food and soda proved to be both a punchline and an unfortunate reality. But if recent trends are any indication, the American food industry may be changing for the better.
As consumers become more conscious about calories and wary of mysterious ingredients, food and beverage companies are forced to take notice -- and take notice they have: in the form of healthier options and expanded corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs. So, are Americans really ready for a turnaround when it comes to food? These five signs point to yes.
Case in point: Each American consumed roughly 56 gallons of soda -- the equivalent of 1.3 oil barrels -- every year in 1998, Bloomberg Businessweek reported. In contrast, Americans now drink around 450 cans of soda annually (roughly 42 gallons), the same as they did in 1986. Likewise, fast food chains like McDonald's are seeing sales plummet, worrying executives and shareholders alike.
In an attempt to win back favor with consumers, fast food and beverage companies are rolling out more health-conscious options -- from Coke and Pepsi's stevia line to McDonald's 'artisanal' buns. But the question here is: Will it be enough?
Likewise, Chipotle -- the fast-casual Mexican chain that's taken the lead on everything from local ingredients sourcing to supply chain transparency -- has seen sales surge: The company raked in more than 4.1 billion last year, compared to 3.2 billion in 2013, which amounts to a 27 percent increase. Comparatively, McDonald's saw its U.S. sales drop 4 percent in February alone.
Beyond that: More than two-thirds of supply chain executives surveyed in PwC’s 2013 Global Supply Chain Survey said sustainability will play an important role in managing supply chains through 2015 due to the potential to improve resilience, reduce costs and support growth. In an op-ed on TriplePundit, PwC's Shannon Schuyler predicted that this year "investors can expect to see increased collaboration at the supply chain level, leading the way for more sustainable sourcing."
Its move was surely big news, but it came as no huge surprise to those in the CSR community, as Chipotle is a known leader in sustainable sourcing. But other brands seem to be taking notice of customers' mounting concern over animal welfare as well: Last month Costco, which sells 80 million rotisserie chickens a year, announced it will stop selling chicken and other meats treated with antibiotics. Other food giants -- from Starbucks and Panera Bread to Nestle, Chick-fil-A and even McDonald's -- have also adopted new animal welfare standards in the face of consumer pressure.
So, have Americans finally turned the corner when it comes to their eating habits? Only time will tell, but it sure looks promising.
Image credit: Flickr/badlyricpolice
Mary Mazzoni, Senior Editor, has written for TriplePundit since 2013. She is also Managing Editor of CR Magazine and the Editor of 3p’s Sponsored Series. Mazzoni’s recent work can be found in Conscious Company, AlterNet and VICE’s Motherboard. She is based in Philadelphia, PA.