“Sustainability” has been a hot button for several years, but “water” is quickly becoming the latest buzzword in food production. Environmentalists warn that by 2025, 1.8 billion people worldwide will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity. Further, the United Nations predicts that if current water usage does not change, the planet will only have 60% of the clean drinking water it needs to support its inhabitants. Even today, in Flint, Michigan, we’re seeing the fallout of its tainted water supply and the effect on the people who live there. Consumers are increasingly aware of the environmental challenges that threaten our food and water supply and demanding that corporations take an active role in helping to address these issues. Here we look at the trends in the food industry and how brands aim to tackle these serious issues.
In recent years, major corporations such as Unilever, Pepsico, and Nestlé have initiated awareness projects, enlisting celebrities to help spread the word about the importance of water conservation on YouTube. While big brands can make outsize statements, some food brands are also finding creative ways to address this issue; Barilla introduced a pasta product that can absorbs the cooking water and eliminates the need to drain the remaining water from the pot. Other brands are developing foods with sustainable, drought-resistant crops such as prickly pear and cassava melon.
Bee Colony Collapse
In the year between April 2014 and April 2015, managed honeybee colonies in the U.S. experienced population losses of more than 42%. Whole Foods, Cascadian Farm, Haagan Dazs, and Blue Diamond are among the companies that have launched campaigns to address this issue. Initiatives include working with non-profits, providing stipends to employees to become backyard beekeepers, and consumer education.
In the U.S., 30-40% of the food supply is wasted, equaling more than 20 pounds of food per person per month. This shocking statistic prompted a new effort by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to reduce food waste by 50% by 2030. Food manufacturers are working with state and federal policymakers to make food donation and recycling easier, contributing over 106 million pounds of mislabeled or discontinued, but otherwise safe, food to help feed the hungry and endeavoring to recycle food waste into animal feed, fertilizer, compost, and biofuel.
One-third of U.S. adults say environmental friendliness is a key consideration in determining how ethical a company is. Consumer support for pro-environmental food policies and food purchasing is growing and brands are catching on—in 2015, 31% of North American food and drink launches made an ethical or environmental category claim. And, both Millennial and Generation Z consumers say they are willing to pay more for products and brands that support the environment.
As concerns about the environment, sustainability, and food safety continue to rise, smart marketers will take a closer at their policies and develop media strategies that offer opportunities to share the brand’s message. Women’s Marketing has a deep understanding of consumers and the media. Let us put our expertise to work for your brand.
Sources: Mintel North American Food and Drink Trends, February 2016, Nielsen Green Generation: Millennial Sustainability is a Shopping Priority, November 2015, GreenBiz.com Why the Food Industry Sends So Much to the Dumpster