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Sustainability Check In: What Can We Expect in 2021?

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Sustainability Check In: What Can We Expect in 2021?
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Sustainability Check In: What Can We Expect in 2021?

January 31st, 2021
2 min.

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What do consumer relationships to sustainable food and beverage look like at the end of 2020, and how can we leverage this understanding for 2021?

What can we expect from sustainable food & beverage in 2021?

At the start of 2020, we released a report on the sustainability trends we expected to see define the new year in the food and beverage space. COVID-19, to put it mildly, threw the industry a curveball; the interest in planetary health that we expected to see skyrocket in 2020 took a backseat to personal health as the pandemic set in. Climate change and its accompanying strategies for a healthier planet, however, are more urgent than ever; we expect consumer interest in sustainability and the global need for change to continue to align in the coming decade. In-the-know food and beverage brands will have the leading edge as the industry continues to adapt to this challenging reality, and seek out new solutions - no matter the curveballs that are thrown the industry’s way.

Knowing that sustainable practices and products are good for the planet is only half the story.

Knowing which products meet current and future consumer preferences is the other - and this is particularly true in the face of multifaceted crises like the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to succeed in the long term, F&B brands need to have their fingers on the pulse of consumer behavior, motivations, and relationships to sustainability.

So what can we expect in the new world of 2021? Veganism continues to be the most prevalent diet for sustainable consumption; 11% of all sustainable food choices are vegan. Consumers are also increasingly aware of the links between sustainable food and beverage and health (33% of all discussions of sustainable food and beverage focus on health benefits), a trend that has continued from before the pandemic. As 2020 draws to a close, however, a few new elements of the sustainability trend in food and beverage are taking shape. Interest in climate-change-conscious food and beverage is down -14% YoY, while discussions of animal rights vis a vi food and beverage are down -5% YoY. While these macro-themes of sustainability have taken a hit in interest, smaller scale motivations like scraps, recycling, and low waste are all on the rise month over month.

Shifting priorities ready an established category for the new year.

What’s the takeaway for food and beverage brands?

As COVID swept the globe, 2019’s increased attention to environmental health on a planetary-scale mellowed. Faced with monumental challenges, consumers instead turned to forms of sustainability that were in reach on a personal level. It is difficult to feel that one has an impact on climate change while in the kitchen during quarantine; it is much more accessible to reduce one’s kitchen waste, recycle, and use scraps to make creative meals. Impact fatigue perhaps drove consumers to sustainable practices that embraced small personal choices, wherein consumers could feel impactful and in control. As you develop your marketing and NPD strategies for 2021, consider using language that gives consumers the feeling of personal involvement and ownership over sustainability matters.


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