Environmentally and socially conscious consumers make up a rapidly expanding part of the CPG market, and it is more important than ever for food companies to consider sustainability in every aspect of their business. This includes understanding what makes food products more sustainable upstream, improving food products with sustainability in mind, and communicating that effort to consumers.
Supply system transparency and integrity
Upstream sustainability refers to the processes and practices that take place before a food product reaches the consumer. This includes everything from the way the ingredients are sourced and grown, to how the product is manufactured and packaged. By understanding the environmental impact of these processes, food companies can make informed decisions about how to reduce their carbon footprint and improve sustainability.
Most upstream impact for food products is categorized as Scope 3, or un-owned emissions that are a part of a company’s value chain. Of those Scope 3 emissions, 70-90% occur before the ingredients have even left the farm. Measuring the impact of a food company’s entire supply system is no easy task, especially because ingredients often come from hundreds or thousands of different locations and suppliers all over the world.
Understanding the impact of a food brand’s unowned operations can present unexpected weak spots – even for regenerative brands with relatively vertical supply chains.
Assessing, managing, and improving Scope 3 emissions is critical not only for fighting climate change, but also for avoiding regulatory blowback and maintaining consumer loyalty. Scope 3 reporting legislation is already well underway in Europe, and in the US the SEC is considering a rule that would require companies to report their climate impact to the same level of granularity as their financials.
Additionally, increasing transparency and traceability in the food supply system allows visibility into the supply networks, meaning that food companies can detect and respond to disruptions more quickly and effectively.
Planning for reduced impact
Innovating food products with sustainability in mind can involve finding new, more sustainable packaging materials, like Terracycle’s, reformulating products to use lower-impact ingredients, or sourcing from regenerative farms.
For example, water-thirsty crops, such as almonds, could be replaced with pumpkin seeds which require significantly less water resources, and can therefore be a more sustainable option for food products. Regeneratively grown and raised ingredients go beyond simply sustaining the health of the soil ecosystem they are grown in to actually improve it.
Building regenerative products
By implementing sustainable practices throughout the supply system food companies can reduce their environmental footprint and build a reputation for being socially and environmentally responsible.
One obvious benefit of building a sustainable supply system is the potential to tap into the growing market of environmentally-conscious consumers. As more and more consumers are looking for sustainably produced food products, a food company that can demonstrate its commitment to sustainability can differentiate itself from competitors, and increase its sales
Moreover, a sustainable supply system can help food companies meet the increasing regulations on sustainable sourcing and packaging. As the industry is facing more and more pressure to reduce its environmental impact, having a sustainable supply system in place can help a food company to comply with these regulations and avoid penalties.
As the economy experiences ongoing supply disruptions due to the pandemic and climate change, sustainability will be crucial for building resiliency in a food supply system. A sustainable food supply system, with an emphasis on biodiversity, is one that is able to withstand and recover from disruptions, whether they are caused by natural disasters, climate change, or other factors. For example, regenerative farming practices can help to increase soil health, which can make crops more resilient to droughts, flooding, and other extreme weather events.
All of this effort on the part of brands like White Leaf Provisions and companies like HowGood lays the groundwork for an equally critical component of the product journey – compelling storytelling.
LookINTO™ specializes in sustainability communication and can help brands build consumer trust and loyalty by effectively communicating the brand’s sustainability efforts to its target audience. Through a creative and engaging medium, storytelling helps brands connect with consumers on an emotional level and showcase the brand’s commitment to sustainability.
As sustainability becomes table stakes for food companies, it can be difficult for brands to differentiate from their competitors and stand out in the minds of consumers. Identifying and relaying specific sustainability efforts that are most important to the target audience can be daunting, but help to build trust and loyalty among consumers who care deeply about these issues.
Ultimately, brands that source ethically have the opportunity to establish themselves as leaders in sustainability, which can be a powerful driver of consumer trust and loyalty in today’s environmentally conscious marketplace.
Coming full circle
After seeing so many well-respected brands’ sustainability efforts, consumers think of these commitments as par-for-the-course, and won’t settle for less going forward. This drives more companies to start thinking strategically about their product sustainability, thus driving positive change in the industry.
As the regenerative conversation becomes more and more prominent with organic shoppers, this is a trend that will continue to grow at a great pace over the coming years driven by a search for more transparency from buyers and key retail decision-makers. Verifying regenerative claims will be the next phase in the story as positive growth and consumer preference incentivizes greenwashing and deceptive marketing practices. Buyers that we have presented the HowGood/White Leaf/LookINTO partnership to, have shared very positive feedback and are excited to see how consumers will onboard the info shared and how this will affect their long-term purchasing habits.
For White Leaf Provisions, gaining insights into the sustainability of their products from HowGood, combined with offering a deeper level of transparency with LookINTO will assist in addressing some of the most pressing environmental issues facing families and be a catalyst for positive change. Ultimately this kind of market movement on a large scale will accelerate a shift in the way food is grown in the US.
Understanding and improving the sustainability of food product supply systems, innovating with sustainability in mind, and effectively communicating those efforts to consumers are all part of a successful brand’s ecosystem as they work towards a more sustainable future. It takes high-quality data, innovation, and story-driven communication to be a leader in the sustainable food space, and the work that HowGood, White Leaf, and LookINTO do together makes the product and the industry at large more regenerative.
We are excited to host a roundtable discussion focused on how brands can strategize end-to-end sustainability. We’ll discuss successes and challenges of assessing products, driving innovation, and storytelling aimed at both retailers and consumers. If you’re interested in joining us to connect with industry experts and gain valuable insights let us know here.