Consumers look for 360-degree sustainability from suppliers

The definition of sustainability is extending to encompass the entire product lifecycle, according to analysts Mintel.

This more circular approach will require companies, retailers, and consumers to embrace their roles in the sustainable sourcing, production, distribution, consumption and disposal of products.

Mintel’s Global Foods and Drink trends 2019 says there is a movement towards circularity as new approaches to sustainability span the entire life of a product, from ingredient sourcing to package design, disposal, or reuse.

This 360-degree approach reflects the principles of a circular economy, where resources are kept in use for as long as possible, extracting the maximum value while in use and then recovering materials at the end of use.

Collaboration between suppliers, manufacturers, governments, non-profits, retailers and consumers can help to ensure sustainability extends from farm to retailer to fork to bin and, ideally, to rebirth as a new plant, ingredient, product or package.

The Mintel report says that global attention on plastic waste, including bans on plastic bags and straws, is creating momentum towards a broader understanding of sustainability.

A seismic shift in how consumers think about plastic is underway as they become more aware of the damage plastic waste does to the planet, as observed by the Mintel Trend ‘Rethink Plastic’.

Many coalitions, governments, manufacturers and packaging industry councils have made commitments to improve the circularity of packaging materials, pledging to improve recycling, reuse or composting of food and drink packaging in the coming decades.

Bio- based packaging materials will be key components to the next generation of responsible packaging.

For example, Australian retailer Coles is already using a recyclable bio-based layered polyethylene terephthalate, a form of polyester that is durable, recyclable and highly sustainable, for its private label meat and poultry.

And Clipper Teas has launched the first plastic-free tea bag made at their Dorset factory.

The Report also warns that more collaborative work is needed to reduce food waste to improve sustainability.

It highlights Tesco’s initiative when the chain became the first UK retailer to release an own-label range of fruit juices, Waste NOT, made from fruit and vegetables that fall outside of the specifications the retailer has set to be sold as fresh produce, otherwise known as ‘ugly’ produce.

The Report adds: “Healthy, nutrient-rich soil provides the foundation for life, yields healthy food, and is important for water management and climate change. Yet soil is being lost faster than it can be replenished.

“In 2019, support of and demand for more corporate sustainability programmes is likely to grow as consumers come to understand the various roles required to get closer to achieving a truly circular food and drink economy.

“These sustainability efforts will include not only improving access to recycling, but incentivising consumers to recycle packaging and offering upcycled goods. Coalitions, governments, manufacturers and packaging industry councils will continue to make commitments to improve the circularity of packaging materials.

“In addition to innovation in reusable and renewable materials, organisations need to continue to improve the recycling, reuse or composting of food and drink packaging in the coming decades.”