There are few aspects of how we shop and eat that have not been impacted in some way by the COVID-19 pandemic. The same is true for corporate sustainability efforts in the food industry. With efforts set to accelerate in the long-term, understanding how the pandemic has reshaped interest in sustainability will be critical to future business success. This briefing assesses key purpose-driven trends and how they are expected to be impacted by the pandemic in the short-, medium- and long-term.
Sustainability has taken a back seat to health during the pandemic. While concerns over food waste, animal welfare and food security have been front-lined, many environmental initiatives have paused in the short-term. In particular, activity around the development and launch of sustainable products and initiatives related to waste and recycling has dropped.
Corporate sustainability efforts are set to accelerate in the long-term, in an outcome mirroring the pre-pandemic approach. Post-lockdown saw global food businesses re-state sustainability pledges on pre-pandemic themes such as climate action, sustainable packaging and food waste. The continued scrutiny of areas such as employee welfare, food security and traceability may see these more COVID-19- related themes become permanent features of future sustainability pledges.
Manufacturers should invest in providing transparency. As the pandemic is seeing a second wave of infections, consumers are expected to shop more cautiously, choosing brands that align most closely with their personal values. Digital traceability solutions such as blockchain or sensor-based product tracing and locally-sourced products with shorter supply chains can play a role in rebuilding consumer confidence.
As the pandemic continues, recession takes hold and spending power weakens, welfare products, often sold at premium prices, are expected to see demand slow. Brands will need to adapt by reassessing the added value of sustainable offerings or by delivering propositions at inclusive prices.
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