Consumers are increasingly purchasing with purpose, demanding transparency in food sourcing as they question the environmental impact of eating. As a result, food manufacturers are increasingly aiming to deliver positive social or environmental impacts alongside the goal of profitable growth. This briefing assesses key ethical concerns that consumers hold and how these are expected to impact companies' strategies across regions.
Animal welfare, social and environmental concerns have been rising over the years for consumers as a high quantity of information regarding the food industry supply chain is now easily and constantly accessible. Global players’ competition from private label and small/local companies is rising and conscious values are a real asset for businesses to display, especially in regions where sustainability and community are big priorities.
In the food industry, companies now, more than ever, need to react to this new type of demand and must ensure that their ethical values are aligned with ongoing consumers’ concerns. With COVID-19, community spirit has been growing and many people went out of their way to help each other. Businesses’ social actions have become more important as consumers became more likely to want to see that food companies were with them in their efforts.
Regulations around food claims have been more and more monitored by governments. Front-of-packaging labels need to be both specific and proven to be accepted by local or regional commissions. Organic remains the leading ethical claim around the world. In Western Europe and North America, more than 10% of the packaged food available is organic. In addition, supply chain control is very important; for example, in chocolate, fair trade, slavery free or UTZ claims are rising.
Packaged food multinationals are often responsible in the production of high volume of wastes and are accused of not having full control over the welfare of the people working on their supply chain. However, investments to find alternatives to polluting ingredients and non-recyclable packaging are growing and should allow them to fulfil their engagements regarding sustainability. For example, with the new development of its paper-based bottle, Coca-Cola could reach its objective to produce zero waste by 2030.
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