Sustainable Food Production: Trends and Opportunities
As the world's population increases, so too does the pressure to produce enough food and drink to sustain us all.
Demands on our lands are increasing, and it's putting a strain on the climate. In Scotland, agriculture is currently responsible for 15% of the country's carbon emissions, which is largely due to methane from livestock (BBC).
Pollution from pesticides is also prompting environmental concerns. Recently, Scotland's fish farming industry was under fire as the presence of harmful pesticides in Scotland's lochs was found to have increased by 72% in 2020 (The Ferret).
As consumers, we are increasingly conscious of sustainability issues. We're now much more likely to opt for sustainably produced food and drink, with 65% of consumers seeking out products that can help them live a more sustainable and ethical lifestyle (Forbes).
As the sustainable movement gathers pace, we're looking at the top trends in sustainable food production and consumption. We'll also examine how businesses in this space can make the most of these long-term trends.
What is Sustainable Food Production?
Many farmers are working hard to introduce more sustainable practices to their food production approach. Sustainable food production methods aim to reduce pollution and lower emissions (EUFIC).
We're seeing a move towards regenerative agriculture practices, a farming method that "seeks to rehabilitate and enhance the entire ecosystem by placing a heavy premium on soil health" (Climate Reality Project). Across the UK, some farmers are embracing this movement, keeping soil disturbance to a minimum while maximising biodiversity.
Food producers using specialist sustainable food production methods and doing something worth shouting about. Promoting these initiatives through the right channels can help producers to connect with consumers and engage their local communities, helping them to get the recognition (and business) that they deserve.
Keeping it Local
Historically, the UK has imported more than half of its food (Nourish). But at the start of the pandemic, consumer interest in local produce in Scotland increased, according to Scotland Food and Drink.
Sustainability is also a motivational factor for buying local. Produce from local sources has increased as a consumer priority in the UK. In 2005, only 6% of consumers viewed buying local as 'very important', while in 2017 that number rose to 22% (Statista).
For those facing barriers to exporting to Europe caused by Brexit, the local market now represents some interesting opportunities.
Being aware of how consumers are learning about locally produced food and drink and how to eat more sustainably can help producers to gain visibility and traction. It's advisable to re-consider target consumers in light of recent changes. Who is looking for local produce now? Where are they looking? Which competitors appear in similar searches, and how can you better their value proposition?
Educating consumers on where food is produced, methods used and carbon footprint of food deliveries can help convert them into customers.
Designing in Sustainability
Like farmers, some food processing and beverage production companies are taking major steps to reduce their carbon footprints. Scottish beer brand, BrewDog, is now a carbon negative company, meaning they take out more carbon from the environment than they emit (BrewDog).
New processes can be designed to reduce waste and improve sustainability.
Find yourself wondering, “how can we make food production more sustainable?” Try taking the free B Corp Impact Assessment, which can provide practical advice and outline changes to implement.
Reducing Food Waste
Food waste is very costly for food production and hospitality businesses, and it's costing the planet too. In the UK, the equivalent of £19 billion worth of food is wasted every year, which is "associated with more than 25 million tonnes of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions", according to Wrap.
It makes sense to cut down food waste to make savings for businesses and for the planet. There are a number of resources available for food and drink businesses looking to make changes.
We like this 'Greening Your Business' toolkit for food and drink SMEs, created by Scotland Food and Drink. As the organisation’s Strategy and External Relations Director, John Davidson notes: “By going greener, businesses have the ability to cut their bills, make their business more resilient, win new customers and contracts, tap into post pandemic consumer trends, and become an employer people want to work for.
Seeking out advice from supportive networks can make all the difference for businesses that want to update their practices but aren't sure how.
Marketing a Sustainable Food Business
#1 Promote your sustainable practices
Don’t be afraid to outline all of the changes you’ve made to introduce sustainable processes to your businesses. Consumers are now more interested than even in purchasing from sustainable producers, meaning they’re actively looking for education on this topic.
Providing facts and figures that consumers can understand can help to put your sustainable practices into context. For example, you could explain how your businesses’ carbon footprint compares to the industry standard, or explain how much plastic has been saved by the sustainable packaging you use.
#2 Get meaningful accreditations
There are a number of sustainable accreditations out there, but they’re not all made equal. Research standard-setting independent regulators and aim to bring in meaningful changes to your business that would help you to achieve accreditation.
This is not an easy process, but it will provide consumers with the reassurance that the claims you make about sustainability are backed up by actions.
#3 Get in front of the right customers
It’s very important to understand what your target consumers look like. Why do they care about food and drink sustainability? Where are they getting their information and recommendations from? What matters most to them, and how can you make sure your business better aligns with their values?
Having a detailed understanding of your competitors is also a very useful exercise: if they’re on your radar, then they’re probably on your customers’ radars too. How are they communicating? What channels are they using? What methods can you replicate and improve upon?
Achieving sustainability is a must for the planet, but it also represents a significant benefit for businesses. To maximise opportunities in this area, it’s time for food and drink producers to reconsider their practices.
Need help to reflect on your marketing? Moment is a sustainable marketing agency specialising in a variety of industries, including food and drink. Get in touch to discuss your next campaign.