Innova’s research has shown that for the first time ever, consumers globally say that health of the planet is their top global concern, rather than health of the population. In addition, over 1 in 4 consumers want environmental considerations to be part of future new product development, with similar importance for flavor and naturalness. With an impressive 9 in 10 consumers claiming to at least sometimes consider the environment when choosing food, it is clear that sustainability is no longer just a trend: it is becoming a new norm. Concerns for the environment may not (yet) be the primary purchase driver in consumer decisions, but it can be a powerful tiebreaker when consumers need to choose between two options.
Supporting the planet from the comfort of your home
Consumers are finding numerous ways to support the planet with simple actions at home: a favorite strategy is minimizing waste, followed by recycling and upcycling. Reducing waste is important to consumers, with almost 2 in 3 prepared to pay more for products designed to tackle food waste. This isn’t surprising: over the past few years, consumers have been facing a world full of challenges over which they have little or no control. Minimizing food waste is something they can control and for which they can experience an instant reward: a good feeling that they are contributing positively to the world, right from their own household. Added benefit: cutting food waste also means reducing their own spending.
According to Innova’s surveys, the top three actions consumers currently take to manage food waste are reusing leftovers (39%), cooking/preparing smaller portions (37%) and freezing more (36%).
Upcycled food: Consumers’ curiosity increases
Consumer commitment to the environment crosses over into curiosity about upcycled ingredients. Social media has been full of tips, tricks, and ideas for recycling packaging and now that interest is moving into food and ingredients. Just between 2022 and 2023, the appeal of upcycled food has increased, with 43% of consumers now showing interest compared to 35% the previous year. Millennials and Generation Z are most likely to see the appeal of upcycling and to perceive better quality in such products, meaning there is great opportunity for brands in targeting younger generations. Market data from Innova shows that since 2018, there has been a steady upward trend in new product launches with a mention of “upcycled” or “rescued.”
Direct-to-consumer food waste pipeline
Upcycling efforts are also reaching the food delivery sector. In major developed markets, waste-busting subscription services are becoming more readily available. This allows consumers to buy imperfect foods, or those nearing their expiration dates, that might have otherwise gone to waste. Such services are promoting waste- as well as cost-cutting benefits, offering consumers up to 40% off supermarket prices.
Consumers are noticing more environmental claims on their food and drinks, and trust in such claims is growing, particularly among the young. Still, nearly half of consumers mention they do not trust the food and beverage industry on sustainability claims. It is notable that consumers have an easier time trusting smaller companies, making it no surprise that many of the existing players are small start-up operations with a specific focus on the issue.
From simple planet-friendly actions inside the home to expecting similar proactivity from brands: consumers are prioritizing the environment, and the food industry better keep up.
This article is based on our report, “Winning with Waste: Unlock the Upcycling Opportunity.”
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