Rising awareness of environmental issues has paved the way for sustainability-driven investment in all areas, including food and beverage. This industry, with its complex supply chains, is increasingly under scrutiny.

Companies have to take into account a wide range of environmental and social issues like gender equality, equal pay, animal welfare, human rights, climate, and the safety of indigenous peoples as they plan for the future.

A report jointly published by Footprint Intelligence and the C&C Group focuses on these issues and the industry’s biggest challenges. The Drinks Sustainability Index – Trends Report 2020 analyzes various industry sectors and gives them a score on sustainability efforts and inroads made in that direction. The key areas to consider for the beverage industry are strategy and culture; waste; packaging; water; social impact; raw materials; energy and emissions; and clients and consumers.

Collaboration within the industry is needed to understand and mitigate supply chain impacts. While all these aspects are vital to creating a sustainable industry, one cannot deny the urgency of the climate crisis. There is immense pressure on the beverage industry to ensure that its efforts are directed at creating evolving business practices for a sustainable economy. Going forward, business strategies should include embedded sustainability practices and science-based targets set for each step.

In an effort towards reducing carbon footprints and mitigating the climate crisis, the industry is focusing on recycled material in packaging, innovative solutions to reduce waste output, and efficient and responsible water use. These efforts will also help brands and businesses connect with their new-age consumers who are environmentally responsible and want their brands to be as well.

In another report exploring the industry’s trends, Food and Beverage Sustainability Trends in 2020, we see related evidence of this trend toward sustainability. Published by the data-insights research platform Tastewise, the report touches on these points, sustainability’s urgency, and also predicts the upcoming industry changes in sustainability. According to the findings, 23% of Americans choose their food and beverage on sustainability considerations, a figure that will grow precipitously.

Some of the clean, green, and sustainable food trends that will take shape in the near future are:

  • Discarding single-use plastic and moving towards plant-based plastic packaging or “bioplastics”
  • The rise of farmers’ markets and locally produced food that will help cut down on transportation and CO2 emissions caused by the food industry
  • New vegan/vegetarian protein options with plant-based or alternate proteins to help mitigate animal industry waste
  • Naturally occurring health supplements and natural additives for organic health benefits
  • Sustainable sourcing and alcohol consumption, which means beverages with less alcohol content, will score big

Consumers will opt for brands that lead to both health and environmental benefits. Brands that use and advertise sustainably-minded packaging have seen a marked increase in consumer interest.

Sustainably produced ingredients are beginning to dominate conversations as well. The same focus needs to be placed on waste in the animal agriculture industry, but only 10% are concerned about it at the moment.