Ali White, PR & Marketing Manager

  • The food industry is catching up with consumer demand for ethically and sustainably produced products
  • Greater transparency and a commitment to positive change is the best approach to capturing the hearts and minds of consumers today
  • Consumers should be empowered by our ability to influence such significant change and make a real difference to our impact on our environment

The pace of change from across the food and drink sector to focus on ethical, sustainable practice feels as though it has happened at almost exceptional speed, but could equally be perceived as too little too late from the tenacious grass-roots activist groups which have been campaigning for improvements for years. It’s a free-range, grass-fed, chicken or egg consideration to try and work out whether it’s pressure from the increasingly ethically minded consumers that have impacted the industry in such a significant way, or if it’s a proactive sustainability strategy driven by brands wanting to do better, which has forced the change.

Either way, there’s no doubt that the growing sense of chaotic uncertainty about the future of our planet is having a significant impact on the way consumers interact with brands and retailers, and it raises interesting questions about what the future of consumption could look like. Food industry trends such as clean eating, meat reduction, meaningful plastic reduction and supply-chain transparency are only continuing to gain momentum, as consumers look to make personal choices which benefit their environment. And it’s no wonder that the growth is so significant, as being empowered to make small personal changes, which will collectively lead to a big global impact, is acting as an attractive antidote to the pervading feelings of hopelessness so many are experiencing related to climate change, sustainability and the future of our planet. 

As consumers become more ethically minded than ever before, they are demanding to see: higher levels of transparency from brands, real commitments to making a positive impact and proactive approaches to rectifying damaging practices. If the current trend continues, success in the future will ultimately belong to brands that are committed to harnessing innovation to build a better, more sustainable future, which they are proud to share with their customers.

The 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer ranks the ability to “trust a brand to do what is right” as the main deciding factor in the brand buying decision. So, as ethical and sustainable manufacturers flourish, this commitment to a new direction should leave consumers feeling empowered in their capability to make a difference. The trend for personal empowerment, supported by consumers, media, retailers and brands alike is creating a power shift, with the ability to influence and impact flowing away from the traditional big organisations and into the hands of the individual.

A project we recently supported, which was co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund via the Interreg France (Channel) England Programme, set out to harness the groundswell of this trend. Cool Food, set up by Al’terre Briezh and PECT, used the knowledge of experts in food, nutrition and the environment, to motivate food consumption behaviour changes, by providing consumers with a way of measuring their contribution to combined positive impacts on the environment as well as on their own health and household budgets. Through an innovative digital tool, Cool Food invited users to monitor the positive impact that making healthy, environmentally conscious food choices can have on the environment, and household budgets. The power of the initiative was that, by showing individuals, communities and organisations the real-time impact of their choices, the tool empowered people to work together to reduce CO2 emissions.

As the balance of consumer power, trust and influence continues to shift, the only way for food brands to not fade into obscurity is to place an authentic focus on corporate social responsibility and position sustainability at the heart of their business. Brands that can harness the motivation of consumers and empower individuals to make positive, environmentally conscious choices by showing them the power they have to make a difference will be the architects of the future of consumption.

As best-selling author of positivity empowerment manual Factfullness, Dr Hans Rosling, puts it: “the secret silent miracle of human progress” is driving forwards as it always has, but it is now incumbent on brands to catch up.

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