The COVID-19 crisis shows that America is hungry for sustainable food systems — more than ever before.

According to a report from The Business Research Company, COVID-19 has steadily pushed up the demand for local, sustainable, and organic food production.

The report titled, “Food And Beverage Global Market Report 2020-30: COVID-19 Impact and Recovery,” shows how this rising demand has impacted the global food and beverage market.

Consumers are more concerned about how food is raised and prepared. They are leaning towards organic, which emphasizes environmental protection, consumer health, and animal welfare. With the disruption that businesses have faced, there is a lot of focus on supporting local brands as well. Consumers are willing to pay a little more for something they recognize as healthy, fresh, and local.

The global food and beverage market size grew from $5.94 trillion in 2019 to $6.11 trillion in 2020. The market is expected to reach $7.53 trillion in 2023.

What is driving this growth for fresh produce?

Restrictions and lockdowns to prevent the spread of the coronavirus have affected local farms badly. Their main buyers, local restaurants, shut down, affecting business for both. It would have a complete disaster had not the individual consumers started demanding fresh local produce. The sustainably run farms particularly began to see a spike in direct sales. Soon these farms started pivoting their operations and business models to meet customer demand.

The crisis presented an opportunity to reimagine current systems. Farmers worked overtime to go digital and add more direct services. From online ordering to home delivery, they became more agile and resilient.

Moreover, these distributed systems looked healthier, safer, and more environmentally sustainable than the industrialized and supersized food systems. But for these farms to run better and support a growing customer base, they will need capital and robust funding. Only when their infrastructure and operational capacity improve can they replicate and scale what they have been doing in the past few months.

The sustainable future

The rise of a sustainable food structure will go a long way to allow equitable access to healthy food across regions. It will strengthen food workers and help them withstand future catastrophic events like this pandemic.

The idea is to pave the way for a resilient food system that is agile and adaptive for future crises like this pandemic. With increases in food insecurity and hardships for food businesses and workers due to COVID-19, a robust system is the need of the hour.

As early as July this year, the IMF reported that 2020 would be a year of reckoning for the world’s food systems. Panic buying, long queues at food banks, and empty grocery shelves were splashed across the news and social media just before COVID-19 shut down half the globe.

Most lay the blame for the empty store aisles on pandemic-induced runs on food. But what is reflected was how important food systems are in our lives and how imbalanced they have become, not just human behavior during emergencies. Workers were unavailable to harvest or package food, restaurants and bars were closed, and stock piled up.

The rebuilding of economies after the COVID-19 crisis offers a unique opportunity to transform the global food system. We need to ensure environmentally sustainable and healthy nutrition for all. Experts suggest that the first step would be making it resilient to future shocks. These could be possible with healthy food choices, resilient food supply chains, regenerative farming, and conservation efforts.