Green is the New Black in the Food Industry

16 October, 2019 Share socially

The whole world knows her, people of all ages and cultures are shouting her name out loud. Our planet is changing, whether we like it or not. With one-third of food produced for human consumption lost or wasted, and millions still going hungry, young consumers are changing their behaviour to reduce their impact on the environment and there is a sense of collective responsibility that is affecting every single aspect of their lives and especially the way they approach food. Whether it is food waste, transparency or climate change, consumers are more concerned than ever about food sustainability.

The eco market is big businesss - it has risen by 6% each year since 2017 and last year exceeded $100 billion globally. According to the GlobalWebIndex, 62% of eco-conscious consumers in the UK and in the US believe that eco-friendly products are better for their health too, which is why food is so important to them and why they want to know everything about it: from its provenance and how it was processed to whether the packaging used is sustainable and so on.

Food brands that understand and support these consumer priorities can achieve long-term consumer loyalty and brand value. The higher costs of producing and distributing more sustainable food is repaid tenfold by the stronger bond that unites green companies with their consumers. If a relationship is going to last it needs to be built on mutual trust and the figures prove it: according to the 2019 Coop Report, a study that analyses the Italian economy, consumption and lifestyle trends, a staggering 82% of young Italians are willing to adopt a new lifestyle to reduce their carbon footprint.

The decision to buy organic food is not only driven by the desire to make a healthier, personal choice but also to try to be more eco-conscious, as confirmed by 60% of Italians (Coop Report). Language is so important to persuade consumers and the word “organic” is very powerful as it successfully merges healthiness with environmental friendliness.

People now seem very willing to make the extra effort needed to shift towards a more sustainable way of eating yet not every brand is helping them when it comes to the products on the supermarket shelf. In fact, despite the rising popularity of “plastic-free” product packaging, especially when it comes to grocery stores, the growing trend of ready-to-eat products does not offer many green options. Shamefully our desks are littered with single use plastic after every lunch break! It is a frankly shocking paradox to see most organic products still wrapped in a double pack: paper and plastic. In the Far East they seem to have found a solution to this: the hypermarket chain Lotte Mart, and Rimping Supermarkets in Thailand have substituted plastic bags with banana leaves to pack their vegetables and fruits, dramatically reducing the amount of plastic waste and making consumers happier.

Green is the New Black in the Food Industry

There are the leaders among brands, the Greta's, which are raising the bar, taking a stand and moving from words to action. Sustainability is certainly not a niche anymore and is now fundamental to the DNA of many major brands. Carlsberg recently launched the first beer bottle made of paper following hot on the heels of Heinz and Coca Cola which have created plant-based bottles. The Amsterdam branch of Ekoplaza designed the world’s first plastic free aisle, using a ‘plastic free’ stamp as a graphic element in the store, and on the product packaging. The idea garnered a lot of media interest and praise internationally and has now become a form of certification which has since been adopted by other supermarkets across the world.

It takes time for big brands to react, due to the high costs involved and more complicated supply chains, therefore it is startups which are paving the way offering the solutions people are looking for (and increasingly demanding). Thanks to the Italian brand Wami (Water with a Mission), for instance, you can donate 100 litres of drinking water to villages in Africa by buying one single bottle of their mineral water. Heading North, we find Too Good To Go, a Copenhagen-based food sharing app that allows people to buy restaurants’ surplus food. Cheaper, tasty food and less waste. What’s not to like?

If consumers are still unable to find products that meet their sustainability requirements, it is not too late for brands to step up and lead the way at this critical historical juncture. Futerra, a change agency, declared that 88% of the UK and US respondents to their survey would like brands to support them in being more environmentally friendly. There is an audience there for the taking but it requires innovation, insight, investment and a lot of hard work because what we are experiencing is a true paradigm shift. It is a fact that the brands which don’t evolve won’t be able to keep up with their consumers. It is also the duty of food brands, both large and small, to help people to fulfil their desire for both a healthy planet and a healthy life.

It is vital to find a real connection between what people stand for and what people actually need, a hard task that both brands and consumers are facing today. If we can assume we all want to save the planet, how much are we really willing to give up?

Greta is helping us to sort this out.