Tag Archives: sustainability

Millennials Are Changing the Food Industry

By Chelsey Davis
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Millennials are definitely changing the landscape of the food industry. What do they care about when it comes to food, and what does this mean for food manufacturers?

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We’ve all heard the latest trends regarding that hard-to-reach audience we’ve dubbed the Millennials (those born roughly between the years 1980 and the early 2000s). And with so many how-to articles out there, it’s hard to really understand who these folks are and what they want. Here are just a few fun facts about this generation: 50 percent consider themselves politically unaffiliated, they have the highest average number of Facebook friends, 55 percent have posted a selfie or two to social media sites, and there are roughly 80 million of them. This makes Millennials the biggest generation thus far. And one thing is for certain, based on research, they are definitely changing the landscape of the food industry. So what do Millennials care about when it comes to food?

Millennials care about quality and sustainability

According to a 2014 study by the International Food Council (IFC), Millennials have the highest level of awareness out of any age group when it comes to food sustainability, and they are willing to pay more for it. And when it comes to quality vs. price, Millennials are more apt to be loyal to a brand deemed to have quality products as opposed to a brand that has a better price point.

Quality versus price for Millennials  (Image courtesy of Bushiness Insider via Goldman Sachs)
Quality versus price for Millennials (Image courtesy of Business Insider via Goldman Sachs)

Take McDonald’s for example. In August of 2013, the fast-food chain reported a 13 percent decline in consumption for people between the ages of 19-21 since 2011. And while Millennials are still dinning out, they are opting for franchises like Chipotle and Five Guys. Why? These chains pride themselves on using local producers and sustainable food items, which makes paying that extra $2.00 for guacamole not so bad to this generation.

Additionally, Millennials are more apt to choose products that are socially responsible and produce lower carbon footprints. For example, Millennials are now paying attention to how much energy, water and effort it takes to grow, manufacture and transport food, including the packaging process. And as this environmentally friendly generation matures and moves into prime spending age, manufacturers will need to evolve the packaging of food products to ensure they are created with eco-friendly and recyclable materials if they wish to appeal to these folks.

Millennials care about their health

This generation, as research states, is more aware of their health than any other generation thus far, especially when it comes to what goes into their bodies. Locally grown, cage-free, all-natural, organic—these are all terms Millennials tend to gravitate towards when making food choices. As a result, organic coffee shops are popping up everywhere, farm-to-table restaurants are all the rage, and even private label brands are seeing increases in sales, with Millennials opting for those over national brands due to the perception that these labels are more innovative.

Millennials are also reading labels and are more aware of what the items on the labels mean—they understand the ingredients and what goes into their food more so than their parents and grandparents. As a result, we’re seeing an increase in natural and organic claims as we navigate through the grocery aisles.

Graphic showing wellness stats for Millennials  (Image courtesy of Bushiness Insider via Goldman Sachs)
Graphic showing wellness stats for Millennials
(Image courtesy of Bushiness Insider via Goldman Sachs)

What this means for food manufacturers

Food manufacturers have an interesting challenge ahead, but also a great opportunity. The ones that will ultimately gain popularity among Millennials will be those that are willing to innovate while staying authentic. Millennials not only value the transparency of brands, they are also aware of shortcomings when it comes to unsubstantiated claims. Food manufacturers must now walk the line between making all-natural and sustainable product claims, and being 100 percent truthful in their statements. When it comes down to it, Millennials will do the research, read the labels and uncover the truth.

So how do you appeal to Millennials, while also mitigating the risks when it comes to labeling your product natural, organic or GMO-free? To answer tough questions like this, TraceGains got the inside scoop from Attorney Antonio Gallegos, who advises on compliance with regulations administered by the FDA, FTC, USDA and similar state-level agencies, and co-produced a guidance report. Use this free Natural Labeling Guidance Report to help you make informed decisions in the future for your products. Do you have additional tips for reaching Millennials? Leave a comment below and let us know!

Sustainability and Food Waste: Would You Eat Expired Food?

By Aaron G. Biros
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“Food waste, if it were a country, would be the third largest emitter of carbon dioxide and methane, behind the U.S. and China,” says Doug Rauch, former president of Trader Joe’s. How can innovation in food safety technology and systems help reduce food waste?

Nearly half of all food produced throughout the world is lost to waste every year. Such an enormous amount of waste should motivate food companies to look for innovative ways to reduce waste and become more sustainable.

Food waste is an issue that encompasses the entire food industry, occurring at all stages of food production including harvesting, processing, retail, and consumption. Therefore food safety and quality professionals, because of their connection to the entire food production process, have an opportunity to mitigate waste by introducing a number of sustainable and innovative practices for utilizing otherwise unused food.

Discarded byproducts and material lost throughout the food production process should be viewed as opportunities worth exploiting for every company. Extracting value from normally wasted material allows businesses to increase efficiency dramatically. Incorporating sustainable practices like food waste reduction can present very marketable opportunities to increase margins.

Former president of Trader Joe’s and keynote speaker at the 2014 IFT Conference in New Orleans, Doug Rauch, is a prominent advocate for addressing food waste on a national scale. During his keynote address, he spoke of the immediate need for food waste reduction: “Food waste, if it were a country, would be the third largest emitter of carbon dioxide and methane, behind the U.S. and China.” 

As the global population continues to rise, and developing countries emulate developed countries’ unsustainable production practices, Rauch believes we will begin to see a change of pace. “The next food revolution is going to be about what we’re not eating; it’s going to be about the food we throw away.”

One in six people in the United States are food insecure and obesity has reached record numbers across the country, with some states reaching over 40 percent. In his keynote speech, Rauch cites these figures, correlating poor nutrition to lower socioeconomic status. Rauch launched the Urban Food Initiative to combat poor nutrition with solving the food waste crisis in mind. His idea involves getting expired (or soon to be expired) food to fight poor nutrition in low-income neighborhoods at fast food prices.

Quality and safety play an integral role in the use of food that would normally be discarded. Brian Turner, Senior Manager of Food Safety Information Services at Sodexo, is on the advisory board for the Food Recovery Network, which is an organization that works with college campuses in reducing food waste and hunger. While these programs are very innovative on paper, Turner emphasizes the “concern for procedures and protocol to minimize quality and food safety issues.”

This highlights an opportunity for food safety professionals to help innovate along the way in the processes of reducing waste and hunger, while implementing key quality and safety practices. Organizations and initiatives like these are helping to emphasize the importance of mitigating waste, while addressing other key social and economic problems. In addressing food waste alone, sustainable practices throughout the value chain can be versatile to extend across markets.

Robert Evans, of the Diana Food Division, was a speaker on a food waste panel at the 2014 IFT conference who discussed extracting value from byproducts. Evans believes that “extracting byproducts in the natural food ingredients industry can provide functional solutions around the world and minimize upstream losses to food waste.”

Through involving the entire value chain, from sustainable agricultural practices and raw material sourcing to safe extraction methods, Evans believes that we can bring functional molecules to the market and reduce carbon footprints. Larger food companies are beginning to take action in the reduction of food waste, but innovation needs to occur at a system level across the supply chain to curb wasteful and unsustainable practices. Extracting value from byproducts along with smart sourcing are just some of the sustainable practices being introduced. Food safety and quality oversight at every step along the way is crucial to reducing food waste by ensuring that otherwise wasted products are held to the same quality standards as other ingredients. With that being said, we will continue to see innovation in food safety technology and systems play a dominant role in reducing food waste and utilizing byproducts.

Study: Organic Foods More Nutritious Than Conventional

By Michael Biros
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The study looked at an unprecedented 343 peer-reviewed publications comparing the nutritional quality and safety of organic and conventional plant-based foods.

The largest study of its kind has found that organic foods and crops are more nutritious than their conventional counterparts. The study, led by a team of scientists at Newcastle University in England, found that organic foods have more antioxidants, fewer pesticide residues, and lower levels cadmium and nitrogen compounds.

Published in the British Journal of Nutrition, the study looked at an unprecedented 343 peer-reviewed publications comparing the nutritional quality and safety of organic and conventional plant-based foods, including fruits, vegetables, and grains. The study team applied sophisticated meta-analysis techniques to quantify differences between organic and non-organic foods.

Washington State University research professor Chuck Benbrook was the only American co-author of the study.

According to a WSU press release about the findings, “consumers who switch to organic fruits, vegetables, and cereals would get 20 to 40 percent more antioxidants. That’s the equivalent of about two extra portions of fruit and vegetables a day, with no increase in caloric intake.”

Antioxidants are thought to help prevent a variety of diseases, including coronary heart disease, stroke and certain cancers.

Conventional crops had twice the amount of cadmium and were three to four times more likely to have pesticide residues than the organic versions, the Newcastle study found. Cadmium is a highly toxic heavy metal contaminant that has been linked to kidney failure, bone softening, liver failure, and lung cancer.

Food Safety and Sustainability

By Aaron G. Biros, Michael Biros
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What is sustainability and how does it relate to food safety? This article, the first in a series on the topic, introduces the concept of sustainability.

The global food industry is already feeling the destabilizing and disruptive effects of climate change. Drought and wildfire are ravaging California while flooding is inundating the Midwest. With the effects of climate change projected to amplify, companies are becoming increasingly aware of vulnerabilities to their business. In addition, current modes of food production are seen as a major driver of environmental problems such as deforestation, desertification, eutrophication and fisheries collapse. All of this is set to the backdrop of a booming world population, rapid urbanization, diminishing natural resources, and critically stressed ecosystems.

Food companies are increasingly becoming aware of these challenges and are looking for innovative ways to adapt their business models to account for them. One approach is to incorporate sustainability into business strategy and planning.

Sustainability is a conceptual framework that has the potential to mitigate business vulnerabilities while simultaneously reducing the stress that food production has on social and natural resources. In general terms, sustainability is the endurance of systems and processes. More specifically, it integrates ecology, economics, politics, and culture. Connecting environmental stewardship with a solid business plan while advancing social justice is an innovative as well as profitable approach to streamlining business operations.

There are different methods to assess sustainability, with the most common being the Triple Bottom Line and Circles of Sustainability. These methods are multi-dimensional and allow for the inclusion of complex qualitative issues. Sustainability has also been deceptively referenced in a number of marketing campaigns aimed at altering how a company is publicly perceived, not how it operates. This is a practice known as greenwashing.

In the upcoming series of articles, topics such as co-management, food waste, water conservation, agriculture, and others will be observed through an interdisciplinary lens, tying food safety with sustainability. Given the connection to the entire food production process from farm to fork, food safety professionals are poised to lead in sustainability. Many of the systems already developed to detect, prevent, and trace contamination can be retooled and applied toward sustainability. Elements of food safety programs and auditing schemes such as HACCP, GFSI, and SQF could be adapted to cover environmental and social benchmarks.

Food companies must develop more sustainable solutions in an effort to protect food safety and natural resources. Businesses, driven by C-suite oversight and stakeholder initiative, need to co-manage food quality, safety, and sustainability in a collaborative approach.  Decision making at every step in the supply chain should comprehensively approach food safety, quality, and sustainability where possible.

Andrea Moffat is the Vice President of the corporate program at Ceres, a non-profit organization that publishes findings on corporate sustainability and progress. She believes that, “Businesses need to look at sustainability and food safety as part of their core business framework in identifying risks and competitive advantages. We are beginning to see teams of executives involving sustainability issues in setting sales and revenue targets.”

By reaching across borders within a company and working toward these benchmarks, businesses can improve operations while maintaining customer loyalty and brand confidence. At the end of the day, food safety professionals are stewards of public health. Sustainability offers food safety professionals the opportunity to expand their influence on public health and safety.

Uncertainties around climate change are now threats for businesses in every sector. The food industry is witnessing the effects of climate change on vital natural resources, and thus business planning now.  Food companies are beginning to look at sustainability as an opportunity to improve business operations at the moment and in the future. The upcoming articles will focus on the interconnectedness of food safety and quality with sustainability.

Stay tuned for more articles on this topic.