Food Matter’s Live Trends Panel: Sustainable Food and Ingredients in 2023

22nd February 2023
Written by HRS Communications

seaweed which is an example of sustainable food and ingredients

Food Matter’s Live is a platform to inspire a better future for food through a variety of deliverables such as podcasts, articles and trends panels. The trends panels are designed to expand the attendees’ knowledge of current nutritional insights and are delivered by experts in the field. Freya, one of HRS’ students, attended the trends panel titled “Sustainable Food and Ingredients in 2023” in December 2022.

The panellists presenting were: Julian Caillouttenoble (Managing Director of The Sustainable Restaurant Association), Allene Bruce (Director at New Nutrition Business), Jennifer Creevy (Director of WGSN Food & Drink) and Simona Grasso (Lecturer and Assistant Professor at University College Dublin). Freya has summarised her takeaways from the session below.

What is sustainability and how important is it to consumers?

Sustainability. We hear and see it everywhere but what does it mean? The panellists agreed that this can be a broad and confusing term with a large scope, from plastic waste to fast fashion. However, the interpretation is largely based on the consumer in terms of their priorities and the things that directly affect them. For example, packaging. As consumers can visually see the scale of the packaging problem, consumers are likely to be more inclined to act upon it. This has therefore contributed to increased availability of refillable products and whole foods without packaging.

Sustainable food and ingredients in the food industry

As food is a major part of everyone’s lives, it is important to discuss the effects that consumers’ food choices have on the planet. For instance, the panel discussed that the damaging impact the meat and dairy industry is having on the planet is becoming more apparent. Therefore, consumers are wanting to make dietary changes to reduce their meat and dairy intake.

The panel shared that multiple well-known restaurant chains such as Wahaca and Wagamamas are now implementing plant-based menus and heroing vegetables in their dishes which are proving highly successful. The restaurant industry is also keen to implement sustainable practices. This may include reducing their menu size to decrease food waste, offering more plant-based dishes and playing more of a proactive role in the supply chain.

Supermarkets are also stocking more plant-based and ‘less meat, more veg’ products. The panel highlighted that consumers are demanding clearly labelled packaging with reliable and trusted information to choose the most sustainable, healthy product on the market. Overall, consumers are looking to businesses to help them be more sustainable in a way that allows them to enjoy the products they use and love.

Is generation Z the ‘sustainability’ generation?

The panel discussed that there is optimism within Generation Z (the generation born between the late 90s and 2012) to help make a positive change for our planet. Gen Z are sharing their values and demanding a healthier, more sustainable world which is challenging brands to adapt. This is impacting consumer demand as they want to choose brands that are aligned with their values and beliefs. This consequently adds pressure on businesses to be more sustainable.

What is the future of sustainable food and ingredients in 2023?

Although positive, improving global sustainability is a slow and challenging process. However, exciting projects such as upcycling, gene editing, regenerative meats and crops are being developed. One fascinating innovation in sustainable food and ingredients is ‘climate heroes’. These are plants, such as seaweed and moringa, that can grow in unruly climates. They also offer benefits to the environment and are highly nutritious. There is large potential and opportunity for businesses to innovate using these sustainable ingredients. For example, WhatIF Foods have created noodles and plant-based milk from BamNuts.

The panel noted that in 2023 brands are likely to be focusing on building trust and credibility for their customers. Communication is key and brands must be open and honest with consumers about behind-the-scenes activities.

Advice to consumers wanting to drive progress

Every little helps. The panel acknowledged that it can be overwhelming to know where to start or what to do. However, small changes in consumers’ lifestyles can make a big difference. For instance, buying locally, using less packaging and reducing food waste all contribute to a more sustainable world with more sustainable food and ingredients.

Check out our summary of the Food Matters Live Trends Panel on Plant Based Products in 2023 here.

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