The future of food is green

A Deloitte report finds that thinking of sustainability in terms of more than plastic waste is a concern for consumers and brands alike.

The majority of Canadians (71%) are  concerned about where our food comes from and the amount of food packaging for items ordered online (61%).

There are among the insights from Deloitte’s new report on the future of food, which also finds that 72% of Canadian consumers prefer to shop at retailers with strong sustainability or ethical practices.

According to Deloitte insights, while Canadian consumers may not realize it, brands are just as committed to improving food sustainability as they are.

While plastic waste seems to dominate conversations about sustainability – 35% of respondents to a previous Deloitte survey report ordering more takeout during COVID, for example – Deloitte points out it’s important to address it in tandem with food waste and supply chain efficiency.

Industry leaders Deloitte spoke with as part of the report acknowledge they’re looking at ways to be smarter about packaging formats and plastics used, and believe elected officials have a role to play in standard setting to spur further innovation.

Meanwhile, carbon emissions remain a key concern for global brands: more than 90% of carbon emissions produced by food retailers, for example, derive from their supply chain.

Building more sustainable supply chains, therefore, has been a focal point, as these were significantly tested during pandemic lockdowns across categories.

Making food chains more sustainable is of paramount importance to feed a growing population, and must be driven from the C-Suite level and “embedded in all operations,” according to Deloitte.

Maple Leaf Foods just unveiled its 2020 Sustainability Report, in which by year’s end, the company had reduced the intensity of its environmental footprint by 25.9% for electricity, 19.5% for natural gas and 21.6% for water, compared to 2014.

Food producers are looking to “repatriate” their supplier networks in order to meet an increasing demand for local – 42% of consumers, according to Deloitte, are now committed to buying more local, which is affecting the footprint of a typical grocery store.

Repatriation is also to ensure food network stability, and involves in some cases switching to a domestic supplier, or educating farmers about shifting their crops to accommodate changing market preferences. They also find themselves working with farmers to establish new greenhouse facilities, explore vertical farms, or adopt other new technologies.

Lastly, any food brand needs to be prepared to disclose more accurate data and be more transparent about its products, its supply chains and sustainability endeavours. Consumers, investors and other stakeholders will increasingly demand to see progress being made.