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A Look at Glanbia Nutritionals MegaTrends #4: Sustainability Matters

While sustainability is a megatrend on every industry’s radar, the food industry is especially influenced by consumers’ growing interest in sustainability. Here’s a look at what sustainability means to consumers today and how this is playing out in food and beverage. 

What Sustainability Means to Today’s Consumers

Consumers’ concerns about environmental sustainability have never been stronger. Awareness of land and water use, greenhouse gas emissions, pollution, and waste continue to grow among consumers as these issues increasingly become a part of the public discourse. Many consumers today are taking small, practical steps in their daily lives toward supporting a more sustainable future.

However, even for the most eco-conscious consumer mindful of recycling, minimizing food waste, and reducing energy use, it quickly becomes clear that one person has a relatively small impact on the environment. That's why today's consumers are looking to the big players—particularly companies—to do their part to protect the environment. Consumers are holding companies accountable and voting with their dollars to support the companies that make these efforts. 

woman using phone in store

Sustainability in Food and Beverage

In choosing food and beverage brands, many consumers (particularly Millennials and Gen Z) are drawn to products with sustainability messaging. This can range from compostable packaging to non-GMO ingredients to corporate commitments on sustainable sourcing or production. A product that shows alignment with a consumer’s values will have strong appeal and be more likely to win a loyal consumer over a product with no sustainability messaging.

While there are many approaches to sustainability a food or beverage company can take, it’s important to realize that consumers’ conception of sustainability continues to expand and evolve. The notion of sustainable food is shifting from basic environmental metrics to a supply chain designed with respect for the environment, animals, and people. Here’s a look at these newer aspects of sustainability:

Animal Welfare

Animal welfare claims such as grass-fed, cage-free, and free range resonate with consumers as more environmentally aware production practices since they allow for a more natural interaction of animals with their environment. The claims can also carry through to ingredients, such as a protein bar made with grass-fed whey protein. 

Ethical and Fair Working Environments

The treatment of workers is another component of building a sustainable food system. Fairtrade certification, which denotes a fair wage for producers in less developed countries, is a well-known example. Protecting the livelihoods and rights of workers can help preserve traditional production activities in often sensitive ecosystems like the tropics.

woman picking berries

Transparency

Beyond simple front-of-package claims, consumers are increasingly looking for full disclosure on what the company stands for and what it’s doing in terms of sustainability. Having sustainability goals available on the brand’s website and proactively sharing this information is a key component of building consumers' trust and loyalty.

Connecting with Consumers through Sustainability

To show consumers they care about sustainability, companies can develop meaningful and measurable goals around energy use, water use, and waste, for example, and share their progress toward these goals. (Check out Glanbia’s latest Sustainability Report to learn about our sustainability efforts). 

They can also consider innovation opportunities such as upcycled foods and bio-based packaging or simply donating to important environmental causes. Good corporate citizenship, which also includes playing a positive role in the community, gets noticed by today’s consumers.

To see how the pandemic is reprioritizing sustainability to consumers globally, watch our latest MegaTrends webinar on-demand

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