10 Takeaways from the Sustainable Foods Summit
I had the pleasure of attending one of the only events totally dedicated to sustainability and food last month. The event was produced by Organic Monitor and is held each January in San Francisco. This year, the focus was on four main topics:
- Sustainable Initiatives
- Food Waste
Below are the top ten takeaways I had from the summit, David Lettermen-style with the last being the ‘big zinger.’
(Click on each image to read a short description of the issue.)
Food Fraud – It’s a serious problem and drives home the value labels like USDA Certified Organic provide consumers. Did you know less than 2% of seafood imported into the U.S. is actually inspected? In January, the well-known and respected Phil Lempert, @SupermarketGuru, noted 39% of seafood sold in foodservice was mislabeled. These aren’t scare tactics. They’re facts that drive home the point of knowing where your food comes from.
Worker’s Rights – Did you know more than half of the 215 million child labors in the world work in agriculture? What about the fact that 43% of the world’s farmers are women? These two groups of people are often unspoken for when it comes to providing fair wages, business resources, and access to healthcare, education and more. Knowing the faces that grew the food you’re eating will become increasingly important. http://www.oxfamamerica.org
Eco Confusion – 52% of Americans are overwhelmed by the environmental information provided on products. Yet there are over 400 registered environmental labels worldwide. Consumers want environmental information from companies but don’t confuse them with five different seals on the package. Source: 2012 Cone Green Gap Trend Tracker
Environmental Decisions Are Personal – Challenge: there’s eco-label confusion yet consumers care about the environment and want you to help them make good decisions. Solution: figure out what your consumers care about most and focus on communicating those attributes. Focus and simplify your message.
Point of Purchase Power – While there’s an increasing number of Americans actually seeking out environmental information on companies, the majority, 73% want the information you’re going to give them at point of purchase. So get clever with your retail displays, packaging and any other point the consumer ‘touches’ during the purchase process. Source: 2012 Cone Green Gap Trend Tracker
QR Codes Help Connect Consumers with Farmers – I’ve been struggling with whether QR codes really are worth the effort; from a consumer perspective as well as a marketer. So many just dump you into a website for another status quo web experience. But, in the age of connecting the consumer with their farmers, a brilliant little company, Ethical Bean Coffee, took the QR Code concept to another level. When you snap a picture of their QR Code on the package or point of purchase of their coffee, you not only see a picture of the farmer that grew that coffee but you see his growing practices and more. Now that’s a QR Code worth stopping and checking out!
Use Your Ground Troops – What presentation on marketing wouldn’t be complete without covering the topic of social media? Everyone knows being active in social media is where it’s at these days. But it’s time to reinvent the approach. Loosen up a little and don’t be afraid to show people you’re human – that you’re not perfect. Being transparent these days is more important than looking picture perfect. Let employees join in more freely. They’re most often your first product ambassadors when it comes to marketing and can give some great insight on your company’s culture and expertise. Remember, social media is less about pitching a product and more about connecting with people, their passions, interests and values.
Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) – Remember back at take-away #3, where we’ve recognized there’s severe eco-confusion going on in the food industry? Well, this might be the needle in the haystack. Life cycle analysis takes into account the impact of the product throughout its entire life: from its inception, production, distribution and use to it’s disposal and decomposition. From my perspective, this is the golden ticket to truly communicating the sustainability story to a consumer. My recommendation is that we move to a standardized method of analyzing this information and provide the results easily and freely to consumers. Now that’s transparency! Image Source: SolidWorks.com
Small Farmers Gain Market Access Through Technology – I’m confident the majority of people reading this post have ordered something online at least once. In fact, the majority of consumers are increasing their online purchases in lieu of braving the stores. (You can Google the stats for yourself.) The brilliant minds that started RelayFoods.com took this knowledge and paired it with the local food trends to create a one-of-a-kind online shopping experience where you can buy everything from your favorite major soda brand to an artisanal, limited-quantity, local organic steak. I’ve seen online food shopping experiences before but this one is in a whole new category and I’m excited to see where it’ll go. Image Source: TechCrunch.com.
Food Waste – It’s the Big Kahuna, both literally and figuratively. It’s ironic, as I’ve been working on starting composting programs in my home and office yet was completely clueless to the fact that the leading source of waste in our landfills is food. We may be a little ahead the trend but I see food waste becoming the next big story/issue in sustainability. There’s going to be more talk about buying less, only taking what you need and making sure you eat what you take. When you go to clear your plate or tray you’re not going to just choose between recycling and waste bins, you’re going to sort into a compost bin too. And at a company level, you’re going to be expected to speak to how you handle food waste on a large scale. This topic excites me. I see tremendous opportunity for education and dialogue on this topic from within our company, our community and the entire food industry.
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