Nurturing Nature: #2 Top Global Trend for 2024

Understanding the rising importance of nature protection in the food and beverage sector

March 11, 2024 – Nurturing Nature, Innova’s number two trend in the Top 10 Trends, discusses how business responsibility goes beyond sustainability and requires actions that make a positive difference in conservation.

A Need for Nurturing  

Nurturing Nature’ is number 2 in Innova’s Top 10 Trends for 2024. Sustainability and environmental transparency have been key food and beverage trends for many years, but consumers are now putting pressure on companies to be more proactive and make a positive impact on the natural world.

The health of the planet has emerged as the number one global issue for consumers. They are acting on their concerns, with more than three in five consumers claiming to be at least moderately engaged in environmental activities. Meanwhile, more than half say the issue influences their everyday purchasing decisions.

Nurturing Nature

Consumers Call for… 

At the same time, more than three out of four consumers believe that companies should be more efficient and transparent in their sourcing and more willing to invest in conservation. A similar number also want governments to set stricter rules for companies.

More than a third of consumers have become increasingly aware of environmental labels in the past year, and between 54% and 63% of consumers say they are willing to pay more for specific conservation claims, demonstrating that consumers see value in all areas of conservation.

How Best to Nurture Nature?  

When consumers are asked what they would like to see from food companies and brands in terms of environmental action, nature conservation is the number one demand. Nearly two-thirds of consumers say they pay attention to environmental claims on food and beverage packaging.

This demand comes in many forms, and consumers tend to view water use, forest protection and green energy as the most important issues.

Overall, environmental claims have increased their share of global F&B NPD from 5.3% to 8.2% between 2018-2019 and 2022-2023, with launches increasing at a CAGR of 13% over this period. In other words, approximately 1 in 12 new products will carry an environmental claim. While the strength of these claims varies considerably, there is a clear trend towards more positive and proactive claims related to protecting the planet.

Competitive Sustainability   

Although still niche, products with claims directly related to water use are growing at a CAGR of 21%, forest conservation at 25%, and green or renewable energy at 18%. Many start-up companies are now taking a stronger stance on conservation, recognizing the advantage it can provide in competitive markets.

Water Control for Planet Health 

Over the past five years, food and beverage products with water usage claims have seen a compound annual growth rate of +21%. An example of water use claims is Kazoo’s corn chip range, which emphasizes its use of 40% upcycled corn germ and the impact this has on the company’s water footprint. The company claims to save at least 16 gallons of water per 11oz bag compared to growing new corn, without sacrificing the taste of their chips. Their goal is to save one billion gallons of fresh water by 2025 with the help of sustainable snackers.

No Harm, Pro-Planet Farming  

Agrobiodiversity – defined as the variety and variability of animals, plants and microorganisms used directly or indirectly for food and agriculture – has become a major focus for the food and beverage industry as climate pressures impact future food security. Biodiversity and diversity are essential in agriculture, an area of increasing focus, not only in researching new edible crops, but also in adapting existing crops to be more environmentally friendly and require less water or land.

At Peace With Bioengineering?  

Advances in agricultural strategies are also important. Innova’s consumer research over the past two years shows increasingly positive perceptions of GMO’s – a longtime industry villain – satellite imaging, vertical farming, and regenerative agriculture. Consumers expressed that their top reason for accepting food produced using innovative farming practices is that they believe it is better for the planet.

Nurturing Nature Global

Regulation Against Deforestation  

In 2023, the EU announced a new regulation to ensure that products consumed by EU citizens do not contribute to deforestation or forest degradation around the world. As a result, suppliers of commodities such as cocoa, coffee, palm oil, and soy, and products containing these ingredients, will have to provide a statement confirming that their products do not come from land that has recently been deforested.

Satellite imagery and geospatial technologies are increasingly being used to address deforestation, with many major commodity suppliers mapping soy and cocoa farm networks in Brazil and Africa.

Considering New Farming Methods  

Vertical farming claims – the practice of growing crops in controlled indoor environments, often in vertically stacked layers – are appearing on some salad products, with shelf life and texture benefits being touted alongside environmental benefits. Solutions may include hydroponics, aeroponics and aquaponics for soil-free farming using nutrient-rich water solutions. Regenerative agriculture claims are also on the rise, increasing at a CAGR of 53% over the 5 years to Q3 2023.

The Greenwashing Debate  

The “Nurturing Nature” trend overlaps significantly with the “Minimizing the Noise” trend, which relates to the importance of open and straightforward information.

Honesty and transparency are the number one value that global consumers demand from the food industry, but 1 in 3 consumers still only “somewhat” trust environmental claims, and another 1 in 5 consumers have little or no trust in such claims.

Transparency for Sustainability  

About half of global consumers are concerned about greenwashing, and 54% say they cannot tell if a company is exaggerating its position, rising to 60% among boomers.

2 out of 3 consumers want direct communication about companies’ sustainability efforts to be visible on packaging. Direct quantification is expected to become increasingly popular, rather than weaker claims such as promising to plant x number of trees.

Europe is piloting eco-scoring schemes to help consumers quantify environmental impact, but they have yet to make a significant impact.

What’s Next?  

The Nurturing Nature trend overlaps with multiple other Innova Top Ten Trends, creating opportunity for companies to appeal to multiple markets at once.

The trend “Ingredients: Taking the Spotlight,” referring to the promotion of ‘star’ ingredients, can feed into consumers’ positive attitudes towards certain ingredients and their environmental footprint. This can be compounded with the rise of plant-based products, as consumers may see plant-based ingredients as both a ‘star’ ingredient, but also beneficial to the environment.

Trends of locally sourced products, and an increasing number of ingredients sourced from oceans, also overlap with Nurturing Nature. Local sourcing benefits from a positive environmental image, while ingredients grown in the ocean, such as algae, are often seen as more sustainable.

Finally, as climate change affects the global farming industry, less familiar climate resilient crops grown in places such as Africa can be utilized. Widening the potential crops for use can facilitate a more robust and resilient food supply, helping safeguard the future.

This article is based on our insider report, “Top 10 Trends 2024: Trend #2 – Nurturing Nature – Global.” If you are interested in reading this report, feel free to request a demo.
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