Convergence is increasing

In the last Index, we found that the traditionally distinct areas of health and the environment were converging. This year, we find further blurring of “people” and “planet” boundaries, with food safety, health, the environment and community becoming intertwined, often in contradictory ways.

This is particularly evident in the issue of food waste. As mentioned previously, this has traditionally been seen as a “people” issue, tied to poverty, malnutrition and starvation, and this remains true. Our social media study shows that, in the USA, the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent increased demand on food banks has brought the issue close to home, driving conversation around food security and improving supply chain efficiencies to reduce food waste, along with support for the local community.

Online conversations in India show a strong link between reducing food waste and preventing hunger, with a focus on the responsibilities of government, business and individuals to work together to that end. “World Food Safety Day” is mentioned frequently in the context of reducing food waste, as well as the importance of access to food for ensuring public health, demonstrating the interconnectedness of these topics.

But there is a growing awareness that food waste is an environmental challenge, too. In fact, food waste accounts for around 8% of total global GHG emissions. To put it another way, if food waste were a country, it would be the world’s third largest emitter of emissions.

Food waste features strongly in our Consumer Environmental Trends Report 2020, with 77% of consumers saying that it is a concern for them, putting it level with global warming. More than half (52%) see reducing food waste as important to preserving environmental resources for the next generation, while 43% see it as doing something helpful for the community. These are classic environmental attitudes and indeed are key to purchasing decisions; they were cited as the top two drivers for purchasing environmentally sound products last year.

Food waste is a once abstract issue that is becoming concrete and personal, as people and planet increasingly go hand in hand. While the pandemic has focused consumers on immediate concerns such as food safety, hygiene and value, it has also increased awareness of problematic issues around the way the global economy works, and its impact on the environment and communities, both global and local. This is likely to generate a greater appetite for change and ever more interest in sustainable business practices and products going forward.

Connecting safe, healthy and environmentally sound food

Consumers perceive strong common connections between food that is safe, healthy and environmentally friendly, demonstrating how these issues are intertwined.

All are perceived to be “natural”, “fresh” and with “no preservatives” (all in that order). Again, safety and health go hand in hand, with 54% connecting safe food with healthy food – the number one association. This suggests a strong connection between food safety and general long-term health, rather than just protection against immediate harm.

Case study: Matriark Foods, USA

Matriark Foods upcycles vegetable farm surplus and fresh-cut remnants that would otherwise be wasted and sent to landfill

Matriark Foods upcycles vegetable farm surplus and fresh-cut remnants that would otherwise be wasted and sent to landfill – therefore significantly contributing to global warming – into healthy, delicious, low sodium vegetable products for schools, hospitals, food banks and other food service channels.

Matriark Foods worked with River Run Foods, a co-packer that recently began filling Tetra Pak® cartons, to develop the recipe. The Tetra Pak Product Development Centre in Lund, Sweden also supported these efforts. “The key was to find the appropriate concentration of condensed broth that could easily be prepared by consumer and commercial chefs into a flavourful multi-use broth,” says Anna Hammond, founder and CEO of Matriark Foods. “The result is that a single carton creates 2.5 gallons of delicious broth, diverting approximately one pound of waste from landfills and reducing greenhouse gases by 2.9 pounds.”

Tetra Pak also provided support on Matriark Foods’ package design to clearly communicate the brand’s mission, including Tetra Pak® and FSC™ logos to support its sustainability position. The new product was launched in March 2020, and the company anticipates that it will distribute more than 200,000 cartons by the end of 2020.

Hammond concludes: “Working with Tetra Pak, a global leader in shelf-stable packaging, has allowed us to dramatically advance our mission to reduce food waste and feed people at a scale that can significantly alter the terrifying trajectory of climate change.”

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Tetra Pak Index 2020, summary and conclusions infographic

Top ten takeaways infographic

Summary video