Nutrition

How Food Companies can Help Improve Health and Sustainability

Whether it's plant-based burgers or cheese made from soybeans, sustainable foods are popping up everywhere and in every form.

Whether it’s plant-based burgers or cheese made from soybeans, sustainable foods are popping up everywhere and in every form.

Modern-day consumers can’t seem to get enough but are food companies doing all they can to improve health and sustainability?

The answer is many are, but many aren’t quite there yet.

For instance, several food companies – some of the biggest on the planet –are pushing forward to produce better and healthier items for today’s shoppers.

Developing new packaging and adopting plans for future operations that meet demand yet target new compliance are a few ways.

And because consumers’ have expressed they prefer healthier snacks, more transparent supply chains, and the use of responsibly sourced ingredients various these companies have acted.

Here are a few examples of how food companies are improving health and sustainability in the food production sector.

Who Is on Board

Hershey’s, best known for its chocolate reported in the company’s 2017 Corporate Social Responsibility Report its Shared Goodness Promise, centered on “our business, our planet, our communities, our children,” and includes such goals as achieving purpose-driven growth, reducing the company’s environmental impact by 2025, improving 10 million lives, and nourishing 1 million minds.”

The company adds in the report its commitment to “using our long-held food philosophy of non-negotiable quality and innovation to reimagine some of our core snacks while also taking on exciting new brands. We also continue to work towards more sustainably sourced ingredients, including cocoa, palm oil, sugar, and coconut, while empowering our consumers with more information through QR codes on our packaging.”

Hershey continues its promise, the report said by “using our long-held food philosophy of non-negotiable quality and innovation to reimagine some of our core snacks while also taking on exciting new brands. We also continue to work towards more sustainably sourced ingredients, including cocoa, palm oil, sugar, and coconut, while empowering our consumers with more information through QR codes on our packaging.”

Big Goals

Mega-company Kraft Heinz reports it will transition to 100% cage-free eggs in all operations by 2025. It will also change the global expansion of its product nutrition guidelines, with a target of 70% compliance by 2023.

The same report states these guidelines represent “the foundation of the company’s nutrition and wellness approach, recommending limits on calories, saturated fat, sodium, and sugar while encouraging nutritious food groups—such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat dairy—in addition to wellness attributes such as natural and organic.”

Another well-known food company, General Mills aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30% in the next decade and to be at net-zero by 2050.

Beyond Meat asked for a life cycle assessment from the University of Michigan and found 90% less GHG emissions for its plant-based burger compared to a quarter-pound U.S. beef burger. 

Conscious Consumers

In a report conducted by The Hartman Group, its apparent consumers are becoming more conscious about what they are eating. The survey said about 69 percent or 7 in 10 consumers want their products to be more sustainable and for the companies to be more visible.

“Openness, honesty, and transparency are becoming the currency of trust for consumers who care about sustainability,” explains Laurie Demeritt, CEO of The Hartman Group in the report. “They want to see corporate responsibility efforts that indicate an authentic commitment to ethical action—especially on the packaging. Transparency is particularly key for retailers, whom consumers view as arbiters of sustainability standards and curators of sustainable products.”

The Hartman Group report suggested that the next generation of food brands is centered on sustainability and meeting the needs of customers and offering good business over good marketing.

By the Numbers

The request for environmentally conscious plant-based food sales doesn’t seem to be slowing down as the market continues to climb during the COVID-19 pandemic. To date, it’s expected to reach $85 billion by 2030, according to UBS.

Additionally, food and agriculture contributed $1.1 trillion to the U.S. gross domestic product in 2019, a 5.2% share.

By being more transparent and providing consumers with healthier products that are more sustainable should help the food industry move in the right direction for future growth.

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