For the last couple years, plant-based foods have dominated innovation in the food industry. Food futurists touted a shift toward plant foods would go a long way in promoting human health and the health of our planet. Their robust sales projections were primarily driven by two factors:
- The continued global growth of the vegetarian, vegan and flexitarian consumer segments has driven awareness regarding the health benefits offered by a plant-based diet. Numerous nutrition research studies examining plant-based eating patterns revealed a reduction in the risk of heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers.
- Environmentalists publicized the current global food system contributes 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions mainly attributable to current food consumption which is heavily resource-intensive, specifically the enormous environmental burden that goes along with animal agriculture. animal-based foods. In addition to driving greenhouse emissions, industrial animal agriculture, places an enormous strain on our planet’s resources (land, water, forests, and biodiversity).
Consequently, food companies’ innovation has been geared towards producing a plethora of plant-based products ranging from meat alternatives, dairy products (e.g., milk alternatives, ice cream, etc.) and even sushi. In order to facilitate a shift towards a plant-based food system, with the aim of meeting global climate goals, several things need to happen. For starters, new sustainable agricultural centric policies/practices will need to be implemented, as well as redirecting financial incentives to convert the quantity of land currently used for animal feed and animal production into land utilized to cultivate plant protein crops. Last of all, category leaders will need to broadcast the features and benefits of plant-based foods to consumers to drive consumption.
Sustainability continues to grow and evolve into a leading consumer criterion for food decisions. Consumer awareness regarding the negative impact of food waste on our planet has risen dramatically in the past two years – approximately 870 million people are under nourished, 2.5 billion tons of produce goes uneaten annually and it is estimated food waste contributes to 8-10% of global greenhouse emissions. Thanks to food waste’s environmental impact a new wave of innovation has emerged; upcycled foods. Food processors are taking the byproducts of manufacturing finished products, waste normally headed for landfills and converting them into functional/nutritional finished products. A primary example would be the manufacturing of fruit juices. Leftover waste which includes pulp, peels, stems, seeds, dietary fiber, etc. are being transformed into snack items. The recycling of spent grain (e.g., barley), a byproduct of the brewing industry has become an innovative technique, a process made popular by upcycled market leaders EverGrain and ReGrained. They have transformed spent grain into protein bars, beverages, baking mixes, flour, pizza crusts and pasta.
To learn more, click on this link to the Upcycled Foods Association.