Food industry sustainability
Despite the disruptions of the novel coronavirus pandemic, consumer support for food industry sustainability remains strong.
Consumer packaged goods that touted sustainability actually received a 56% boost in sales in the second week of March. At this point, consumers were already stockpiling goods, so the figure is a clear indicator that consumers were particularly keen to acquire sustainable goods.
Background: Sustainability in Food
Well before COVID-19, a movement for food industry sustainability was afoot as customers demanded environmentally friendly food.
Indeed, the National Restaurant Association’s 2018 sustainability report found that one of the top menu trends for the year was environmental sustainability.
Making efforts toward corporate sustainability
And one survey of senior executives at consumer packaged good companies found majority support for the idea that making efforts toward corporate sustainability led to improved revenue and customer loyalty.
Success and Sustainability in the Time of COVID-19
Restaurants and other foodservice businesses that have prioritized sustainability in the face of the pandemic have often continued to reap the rewards of increased customer preference.
For example, international restaurant chain Nando’s has remained committed to delivering high-quality sustainable food in the midst of the pandemic. This means sourcing chicken from local farmers in the United States.
In this case, the fact that Nando’s was already committed to sustainability served the company in good stead: with local suppliers already in place, it was better able to cope with the disruptions and dislocations of COVID-19.
Nando's relies on African farmers
The company also relies on African farmers in the countries of Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe, farmers who grow the African Bird’s Eye chilies Nando’s uses for their signature PERi-PERi chicken.
Nando’s wanted to include these farmers in their sustainability efforts.
As a spokesperson for the company explained:
“Besides giving farmers access to the latest farming techniques, quality seedlings and finance, we also give them a fixed outlet for their crop, commit to a predictable demand, and provide a premium for every kilogram of chilies harvested.”
And when the lockdowns put numerous foodservice operators at risk of wasting large amounts of food, Nando’s sprang into action. They have donated over 100,000 meals to health care workers, to their own employees, and to other restaurant industry workers who are out of work.
The Oberon Group
Another sustainability pioneer during the age of COVID-19 is New York’s The Oberon Group. The company already operates food, beverage, and hospitality businesses as carbon-neutral or carbon-negative establishments.
The company’s supply chain management relies substantially on carbon drawdown measures and on regenerative agriculture.
COVID-19 has been a challenge, but Oberon has found ways to adapt. For example, the company’s natural wine bar Rhodora and catering company Purslane already had models for zero-waste production in place. These included reusable containers for to-go beverages, and food takeout packages made of recyclable, compostable, or reusable materials.
Looking Toward a Post-COVID Future
Beyond doubt, COVID-19 has been a time of tremendous strain for foodservice businesses. However, even before the pandemic numerous businesses were already pioneering sustainable models that have contributed to their success in the difficult times of the pandemic.
It is likely that the post-COVID-19 food service industry will be even more sustainable, as more companies seek to adopt local sourcing of ingredients and implement sustainable materials both as cost-cutting measures and to foster consumer loyalty.
Food industry sustainability