Author: Bahige El-Rayes, Partner atA.T. Kearney
The path to sustainability in F&B
Today’s consumers are environmentally conscious and driven by their values. They care about the food they eat and its environmental impact. In fact, 86% of consumers said that environmental issues are a major concern facing society today, which means that companies can’t afford to turn a blind eye to this growing demand for change.
Without a doubt, companies are already beginning to recognise the importance of sustainability, as evidenced by their approach to packaging. In the last year, we’ve seen Tesco pledge to remove one billion pieces of plastic from its products by the end of 2020. Similarly, Sainsbury’s has pledged to halve the amount of plastic it will use in stores by 2025.
Although the way food is packaged is a major concern, consumers are also aware that farming, distribution and waste are also having a major impact on our planet. To take sustainability seriously, companies therefore need to look at the full food life cycle.
We’re seeing, for example, major uptake in meat replacement products, and predict that most of the world will be eating alternatively sourced meat by 2040. From the vast emissions contributing to the climate crisis by farming, to wild habitats being destroyed for farmland, the choice to consume less meat can have a positive impact on the environment.
Major food and beverage companies are also reformulating their products to eliminate excess processing and reduce their environmental impact in that way too. We’re already seeing a reduction in the use of salt and sugar in food as people not only look for health-conscious choices, but sustainable options as well.
Norwegian based food company Orkla, for example, eliminated 21 tonnes of salt from its snacks and biscuits in 2018. This was a step towards hitting its goal of a 15% reduction in the total consumption of salt and sugar in its food products by 2025.
Transforming with technology
The road to sustainability for food and beverages will continue to be an uphill battle as supply chains become increasingly global and more complex. As such, being able to map the journey of products from field to fork accurately – and with the smallest impact on the environment – is no easy task. Technology can help here, however, and will play a significant role in the whole food production and distribution chain.
Gartner has predicted that technology like blockchain will support the global movement and tracking of $2 trillion in goods and services annually by 2023. Not only does it have the potential to improve traceability and sustainability across the entire food supply chain in a trusted and shared ledger, but it will also allow companies to identify significant points in their supply chain where they could be making more sustainable choices.