Sustainability is firmly at the top of the consumer agenda, putting more emphasis on each brand’s values and actions than ever before. But as we transition through another tumultuous year with rising global inflation and the ongoing cost-of-living crisis, is sustainability likely to stay front of mind?
And, asks Els Zeeuwen, Director of Branding and Communication at FrieslandCampina Ingredients (pictured), how can brands successfully deliver nutrition that’s both healthy and sustainable in a time when consumers might have other immediate priorities when it comes to their food shopping habits?
The secret might lie in how your product is positioned. Here are four things to consider to ensure your sustainable nutrition product appeals to consumers in 2023.
Focus on people and the planet
The end of 2021 saw a radical shift in where sustainability lay in consumers’ personal priorities; according to Innova Market Insights, one of the biggest trends for 2022 was consumers prioritising “health of the planet” instead of “health of people” for the first time ever.1 That’s a big deal, considering we were — and are still — emerging out of the biggest global health crisis in decades. So, what does this mean?
The shift signifies one crucial lesson that we’ve all had to come to learn in recent years: the health of the planet and the health of people are intrinsically interlinked. There’s no separating the two.
And with environmentally conscious Gen Z coming of age as the threat of exceeding a 1.5 °C global temperature increase looms, today’s consumers recognise that to have the tools to look after our people, we first need to look after our planet. This is a key driver of our changing eating habits; nearly 50% of people have made changes to their diet to become more sustainable.1
But although the personal habits of consumers are changing, they want food and nutrition brands to take the lead: almost two thirds think that the industry should do more to protect the planet.2
There’s a clear opportunity for brands to tie their mission to deliver healthy nutrition more closely to their sustainability initiatives — whether that’s by highlighting their impact on local communities or spotlighting how nutrition and sustainability are joint priorities for their brand.
By focusing on people and the planet in equal measure in communications, brands can showcase how they’re making a tangible and long-term difference for generations to come.
Clarity on claims
With the pressure on, it’s tempting for food and nutrition products to simply pop some sustainability messaging on pack — but it’s essential that these claims are meaningful. Consumers are increasingly sceptical of claims that run the risk of overpromising. To avoid accusations of greenwashing, brands should make every effort to educate consumers in a way that’s specific and easy to understand.
One of the main barriers to consumers adopting a more sustainable lifestyle is that they don’t feel well-equipped to make the right decisions. A whopping 48% of consumers say they don’t have enough information when it comes to making choices in the name of sustainability.3
Backing up claims with statistics and measured insights is one way to get the message across. For example, include information about how your brand is protecting natural ecosystems instead of using vague terms such as “nature friendly” or “green.” Cite concrete evidence about how your brand is protecting nature and the planet.
Even better yet, the dairy industry should aim for one standard system to measure its environmental impact that is independently certified and measured. Take emissions claims, for example, which are increasingly catching consumer attention; 50% of Europeans already proactively seek out information on a product’s carbon dioxide emissions.4
Having these claims verified by an independent third-party is a reliable way of making them meaningful to consumers; 83% say they’re are more likely to trust a product’s sustainability claims if it has been substantiated by a third party.5 At FrieslandCampina Ingredients, we partner with ClimatePartner to do this.
This partnership enables us to accurately calculate our ingredients’ footprints, make emissions reductions and offset the remainder through ClimatePartner’s certified initiatives … as well as communicate the impact to consumers using its label and tracking systems.
Be aware of the bottom line
Updated data from Innova Market Insights shows that, once again, consumers have chosen the health of the planet as their number one priority for the second year in a row.6 And although it looks like consumers are on the sustainability journey for the long-haul, brands need to be aware that, in 2023, they’ll also be prioritising price.
A significant 72% of consumers are worried about the cost of living and 63% are considering reducing their spend on food and drink because of it.2 And they also say that cost is the biggest barrier to sustainable lifestyles; more than half of consumer say they haven’t taken a specific sustainable action because it’s too expensive and more than a quarter say they didn’t because of economic uncertainty.3
To help people make sustainable decisions and decide where best to spend their money, brands should be clear about their product’s value, rather than focusing on cost. For example, explaining how much consumer money goes towards sustainability initiatives when they buy your product.
To take it the extra mile, companies can also help consumers to reduce their personal spend while still providing sustainability benefits. One way to do this is by minimising food waste by formulating goods with improved shelf-lives.
In 2022, 53% of consumers focused on planning their meals and snacks more carefully to avoid waste.7 This not only has an environmental impact, but an economic one too.
And ingredients play an important role in opening up this opportunity; our Excellion TextPro, for example, has been designed specifically to prolong the shelf-life of high protein bars, to reduce food waste and provide consumers with cost-saving products.
Following yet another tumultuous 12 months and many uncertainties ahead, it’s understandable that many companies might be unsure about what’s next for their brand from a sustainability perspective. But one thing is clear; consumer appetite is there.
Despite economically difficult times, most consumers want to do their best for the planet and for future generations — and they’ll prioritise this goal as much as is realistic for them to do so. But they need their favourite brands to help them on this journey.
So, the companies that will win out in the long-term are those that acknowledge what’s most important for consumers today ensure that people can get the most out of life by creating a more sustainable future for all.