Here is our fourth article in our Food Trends for 2019 series. In this series, we will discuss what we think of the hottest food trends from a Registered Dietitian’s perspective. Are these food trends here to stay or will they be gone next year like many one hit wonders? Today’s topic: sustainable food! So important for our health and the planet.
What is three times the size of France, smells questionable, and lives in the ocean? If you guessed the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, you are correct!
Sandwiched between Hawaii and California, this massive underwater garbage dump is the largest accumulation of ocean plastic in the world. Approximately 1.8 trillion plastic pieces are floating in this area. A plastic count that is equivalent to 250 pieces of debris for every human in the world.
Astoundingly, this isn’t the only garbage dump swirling in the ocean. There are also four other offshore garbage “patches” in the world’s oceans that are slightly smaller. Besides the obvious danger to marine life, this growing accumulation of garbage poses financial, health, and climate risks for all of earth’s inhabitants.
Along with concerns about environmental pollution, rapid population growth is also posing a strain on the earth’s resources. The world’s population is expected to reach an astonishing 9.6 billion by the year 2050, which equates to almost 2 billion more mouths to feed. Food sustainability is threatened as the world population grows; simultaneously our land, soil, and water all become more vulnerable. Sustainable food needs to be a priority now.
What is Sustainability?
Sustainability is the production of food utilizing techniques that support the environment, public health, and animal welfare. It will safeguard food availability for future generations. The long-term goal of sustainable food production is to ultimately reduce waste and find more viable ways to feed the world.
When strolling through the grocery store or previewing a restaurant menu, sustainability may not be on the forefront of your mind. Nevertheless, consumers are beginning the bridge the gap between the choices they make and how they can ultimately impact the future of the planet.
Consumer Demand for Sustainable Food Increases
A study conducted by Nielsen reported that 66% (and a whooping 70% of millennials) of consumers would pay a premium for products made by companies committed to positive social and environmental causes.
Consumers are requesting sustainable alternatives when it comes to the way their food is packaged. When a package isn’t recyclable, people are looking for brands to offer packaging that is. Trends in this area include biodegradable or even edible packaging.
Food Manufacturers Respond to Demands
Food manufacturers appear to be hearing the consumer call to action. Nestle USA, Mars Inc, Danone North America, and Unilever United States, the nation’s largest food companies, recently initiated the Sustainable Food Policy Alliance. This new organization is dedicated to the advancement of public policies to shape what people eat. The Alliance also addresses how food will impact the planet, communities, and health.
Animal-based foods like meat and dairy put a strain on the water, land, and climate versus plant-based foods. According to the World Resources Institute, if the average American were to reduce their consumption of animal-based protein by half, it would decrease the land use and greenhouse gas emissions by 44%. When applied to the world’s highest consumers of animal protein, this change would free up 1.5 billion acres of agricultural land, an area roughly twice the size of India.
There does appear to be a trend in increasing the consumption of plant-based foods, as these options are becoming much more prevalent in the aisles of the grocery store and on restaurant menus. However, considering the American “meat and potatoes” culture, this trend may be slower to take hold.
Companies at the Forefront of Food Sustainability
Many of us have heard of the popular bar company Larabar, but perhaps you didn’t know they have made it their mission (and not just in a statement) to better the future of the planet. Larabar uses non-GMO products made with Fair Trade ingredients and has also partnered with Feeding America and Terracycle. Feeding America aims to alleviate food insecurity and hunger, while Terracycle is a company committed to recycling the “non-recyclable”, diverting millions of pounds of waste from landfills.
Dave’s Killer Bread is another company committed to sustainable agriculture and organic farming along with social welfare. This company has pledged to help people turn second chances into sustainable change by hiring one in three employees with a criminal background.
Lipton, the popular tea brand, is committed to sourcing 100% sustainable tea by 2020 by working to make all of its tea Rainforest Alliance Certified-meaning helping to protect the land, water, and people in tea-growing areas.
The Power is in Our Wallets
We can all wield power with our wallets and it appears we’re are doing just that with respect to sustainable food. The days of plastic wrap and Styrofoam containers look to be waning while edible, recyclable, and biodegradable packaging takes the lead. Environmentally friendly companies have heeded the call for change and this sustainable food trend will likely grow as we attempt to reduce waste and find creative ways to feed the world’s growing population.
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