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This Year’s Key Sustainability Opportunities

Sep 26, 2016 at 02:05 PM By:
Janet Wakutz

Happy New Year! With it, 2016 brings 365 opportunities to get it right! What are the key sustainability opportunities the food and beverage manufacturing sector will tend to focus on this year? Of continuing concern, consumer trust remains a high priority. FoodDive.com, in their article: 12 key food and beverage industry predictions for 2016, states “Consumer trust efforts will supersede traditional marketing approaches.” Of course we know that consumer trust is not only tied to marketing but applies to the entire food value chain. No longer impressed by inspirational stories and commercials, consumers are looking beyond the brand to discover whether sustainable, ethical practices are in place. Many consumers expect brands to transparently report corporate sustainability supported by meaningful proof.

Hand-in-hand with trust is food safety. Another opportunity for food and beverage manufacturers to appeal to consumers is by transparently reporting not only what’s in the food they produce but how they produce it. Consumers’ concerns go beyond foodborne illnesses to demanding organic, non- genetically modified organisms (GMOs), labelled additives and the ethical treatment of farmed animals. As a result, for instance, McDonald’s has responded to the latter with a broadly reported commitment to transition to 100% cage-free eggs in the next 10 years. In the same FoodDive.com article mentioned previously, Donald Reed, Managing Director, Sustainable Business Solutions Practice, PwC, says “Value chain transparency will increase in priority for branded food companies of all kinds to improve food safety, sustainability, consumer desires, and value chain resilience while reducing fraud.”

Rising food costs is likely to challenge the food and beverage industry as well. According to CBC news the University of Guelph’s Food Institute estimates the cost of all food will rise again in 2016. The school predicts categories such as meat, fish and vegetables could rise as much as five per cent. As food prices rise, food waste concerns increase. In Canada, the equivalent of 30 to 40 per cent of the food produced is lost along the value chain, with much of it finding its way to landfill or composting. This food waste is worth an estimated at $27 billion each year.

Another key consideration for this sector results from the Paris COP21 commitments. According to Andrew Winston, author of Green to Gold and The Big Pivot says, “Leading CEOs are seeing the work to manage climate change as a strategic and human imperative.” He reports that Ken Powell, the CEO of General Mills says “human-caused greenhouse gas causes climate change and climate volatility and that’s going to stress the agricultural supply chain” — as in, the system that feeds us.” Winston sums up COP21’s impact: “In the end, the meeting in Paris, and all the public and private sector commitments stemming from it, will greatly accelerate the shift that’s begun. We’ll get moving on the world’s most pressing challenge (and opportunity).” Fundamental changes will be required such as investing in clean technology; yet, smaller changes can have a significant impact over time to reduce carbon emissions and reduce energy costs.

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