The global food industry begins 2019 with increased pressure to make sustainability a key ingredient in feeding an estimated 9.8 billion people by 2050.
One of the top trends in 2019 and beyond for global food innovation is what the market intelligence agency Mintel calls “evergreen consumption.” From farm to retailer to fork to bin and ideally, to rebirth as a new plant, ingredient, product or package, the industry is moving towards circularity as the new sustainability, according to Mintel.
This is exactly the approach the private sector must adopt to secure a sustainable food supply, according to Richard Waite, co-author of a recent synthesis report from the World Resources Institute, the World Resources Report: Creating a Sustainable Food Future.
Sustainably feeding nearly 10 billion people by 2050 is possible, he says, but it will require significant innovation and investment by the public and private sector.
“Private industry has role to play across the whole menu and they are already playing a substantial role,” Waite, an associate with WRI’s Food Program, told TriplePundit. “Companies are innovating ways to shift consumers to more sustainable diets, reduce food and waste and accelerate agricultural productivity. But we need to do all of this at a much faster rate than we did in the Green Revolution.”
Overall food demand is on course to increase by more than 50 percent, and demand for animal-based foods by nearly 70 percent, according to the WRI report. Yet today, hundreds of millions of people remain hungry, agriculture already uses almost half of the world’s vegetated land, and agriculture and related land-use change generate one-quarter of annual GHG emissions.
“For every food calorie generated, animal-based foods—and ruminant meats in particular—require many times more feed and land inputs, and emit far more greenhouse gases, than plant-based foods,” Waite says.
The shift away from meat-based diets is a particularly prevalent trend among Millennials, as TriplePundit recently reported, with 40 percent of Millennials embracing plant-based diets.
Food producers are paying attention. United Kingdom retailers Sainsbury and Tesco are stocking more meat alternative products to meet the demand of the U.K.’s estimated 22 million “flexitarians” who want to reduce their meat consumption. The global food services company Sodexo introduced last year The Natural, a beef-mushroom blend aimed at meeting increasing consumer demand for sustainable foods with a lighter footprint.
Sodexo, Sainsbury, Google and Hilton Worldwide are among the members of WRI’s Better Buying Lab, an initiative to research and scale cutting-edge strategies that enable consumers to choose more sustainable foods, focusing first on plant-based foods.
The Consumer Goods Forum has taken up this call, with a commitment to halve food waste within the operations of its members by 2025 and to support the wider SDGs on the issue.
Reducing food loss and waste by 25 percent globally would reduce the food calorie gap by 12 percent, the land use gap by 27 percent and the GHG mitigation gap by 15 percent, according to the WRI report.
“Companies are recognizing that they can gross sales, reduce costs and address sustainable food challenges all at once by adopting new practices,” Waite told TriplePundit.
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Based in southwest Florida, Amy has written about sustainability and the Triple Bottom Line for over 20 years, specializing in sustainability reporting, policy papers and research reports for multinational clients in pharmaceuticals, consumer goods, ICT, tourism and other sectors. She also writes for Ethical Corporation and is a contributor to Creating a Culture of Integrity: Business Ethics for the 21st Century. Connect with Amy on LinkedIn.