Infographic – Top trends for sustainability in the food industry
By Katerina Mansour - 16 November 2021
The United Nation’s 2021 edition of the climate change conference, also known as COP26, has just come to an end. As always, reactions to the discussions and conclusions that came out of it are varied. One impassioned speech certainly struck a cord for many – that of Elizabeth Wathuti, a Kenyan activist, founder of Green Generation Initiative. Her words, in addition to being a reminder of climate change’s impact on food security and access to clean water, can also serve as a reminder of the importance in implementing sustainable food production today.
“The decisions you make here will help determine whether children will have food and water.” — Kenyan climate activist Elizabeth Wathuti
Indeed, as paradoxical as it may seem, the food industry as it is today is endangering access to food and water for future generations. As a whole, the food industry requires massive change to mitigate its effect on the environment. Sustainable food production is a growing trend but change is slow – both businesses and consumers must shift their current habits in order for us to achieve results.
Download our infographic on sustainability in the food sector:
Why sustainable food production is a must
The environmental impact of the food industry has been widely studied for years now. Several figures help illustrate how food production and consumption today are harming the planet:
- 26% of global greenhouse gas emissions are estimated to come from the food industry
- 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions come from the meat and dairy industry
- 69% of the planet’s fresh water is consumed by the agricultural sector
- 18% of the food industry’s greenhouse gas emissions come from the supply chain
- Expansion in agriculture drives 90% of global deforestation
- The food waste generated in Europe as of 2013 could feed 200 million people
- In 2019, 931 million tonnes of food waste was generated, 61% of which came from households
Consumer behaviour is shifting
Although it’s arguably been slow, there’s a growing shift in consumers’ behaviour towards food. Indeed, many are changing their diets due to the understanding that meat production has dire effects on the environment. Vegetarian, vegan and flexitarian diets are far more common today than even just a few years ago. Consumers are also seeking out sustainably produced food and beverages when grocery shopping – another indicator that corporates should keep in mind.
In our infographic below we highlight that:
- 49% of consumers consider sustainability when choosing food and beverages
- £1.1 billion of retail sales in the UK in 2019 came from vegetarian and plant-based alternatives
- 35% of French consumers have cut down on their consumption of meat and fish in 2016 and there was a 12% drop in meat consumption in France from 2008 to 2018
- 26% of millennial Americans were already vegetarian or vegan as of 2018
Innovation for sustainable food production
The climate impact coming from the food sector spans throughout the entire process of creating and delivering the food that ends up in our plates. Each step of the process faces its own challenges. As such, there’s no shortage of foodtech and agritech startups developing new solutions to produce food more sustainably.
In our infographic, we highlight the following projects:
- FormWise, which develops robotics for sustainable crop weeding
- Hargol*, which produces an alternative protein source thanks to grasshoppers
- Phenix*, which developed a mobile app for shops and restaurants to sell produce at the end of its lifecycle to consumers in order to avoid food waste
- The Nu Company*, which offers vegan food products (chocolate bars, protein bars, protein shakes) with plastic-free packaging
- Agriodor*, which develops a scent based on kairomones that acts as a sustainable alternative to insecticides on crops
- Invisible Foods, which develops a platform for companies to predict food loss/waste through the production and supply chain in order to sell this food to other companies and avoid waste
*Startups rated by Early Metrics
In 2020, Agritech startups raised $5 billion in VC funding alone, which is already twice as much as in 2019. As awareness of the food industry’s impact on the environment continues to grow, more innovative solutions will emerge. Overall, sustainable food production, or decarbonisation of the agricultural and food industry, is something both corporates and consumers need to continue working towards – and quickly.