Opinion: Sustainability is the top industry trend to expect in 2023
Sustainability has been top of mind for both food and beverage processors and consumers for many years. In 2023, sustainability will continue to be at the forefront of industry trends and innovations. Positive climate action is increasing in urgency, and consumers are growing increasingly conscientious about how their own decisions, including the brands they support, are impacting the environment and the future health of the planet. Carlos Fernandez, executive vice president of customer sustainability and market development at JBT Corporation, tells us more.
In a recent IDC industry survey, nearly 30% of food and beverage decisionmakers considered customer demand for eco-friendly products and offerings as the top factor motivating organisational change toward greater sustainability. In today’s uncertain economic climate, including inflation, increased competition and supply chain challenges, processors will continue to strengthen their commitment to sustainability in their operations.
Reduce food waste
Food waste contributes to two of our biggest global challenges today – hunger and climate change. Nearly 690 million people are hungry around the world – 10 million more than in 2020, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization. Furthermore, it is estimated that food waste was responsible for 8-10% of global emissions between 2010 and 2016, as stated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The food and beverage industry holds great responsibility to be mindful of the needed resources to improve food security, and technological innovation is necessary to find new solutions to reduce food waste.
Technology providers that tackle this problem through the products they offer can help their food and beverage manufacturing customers contribute to a healthier, more equitable world. This includes developing and utilising technology that makes the most out of natural resources. For example, juice processors can do more than just extract juice. They can also process valuable byproducts, including peel, oils and pulp. Many existing technologies already have many sustainability and cost-saving advantages that reduce the need for artificial preservatives while extending shelf life and improving food safety.
Save water and energy
Electricity and fuel represent significant costs to food and beverage manufacturers and contribute heavily to their carbon footprint. Every day, food and beverage processors are setting new climate plans, goals and targets, looking for new ways to reduce their emissions. Investing in efficient equipment and technologies is critical to achieving those goals. Today, more than 2 billion people live in countries experiencing high water scarcity, including many parts of the world where our food and beverages are made. The increasing frequency of droughts and dropping water tables add to the concerns around water scarcity risks, particularly for processors with water-intensive operations. In 2023, we will see the accelerated adoption of efficient steaming technology, water reuse systems that reduce processors’ water, energy, chemical usage and more.
Adopt packaging alternatives
Today, 60-70% of consumers are willing to pay more for brands that implement sustainable packaging alternatives for their products, and as a result, food and beverage companies are aligning their strategies by adopting more sustainable packaging. In 2023, we will continue to see companies across the sector shift to packaging alternatives that use compostable, paper and paperboard materials. Tray-sealing packaging will continue to increase in popularity as it significantly reduces the use of plastic and energy, while also preserving product quality all the way from the production line to the end-consumer. Mono-material plastics are being adopted across the industry, which can be substantially easier to recycle than the current industry standards of multi-material layered plastics.
Cell-based protein innovation
In addition to already popular plant-based proteins and dairy alternatives, culture-based proteins, while not mainstream yet, are growing in demand and will emerge as a leading alternative-protein source in 2023. Because this production method eliminates the need to raise and farm animals for food, cell-based proteins have the potential to revolutionise the way food is produced, with major cost, environmental and global health and food supply benefits.
Factory farming is a major producer of greenhouse gas emissions and nutrient pollution, and today, more than one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activity can be attributed to the way we produce, process and package food. Data from two comprehensive new studies found that cell-based meat could cause up to 92% less global warming, 93% less air pollution and use up to 95% less land and 78% less water compared to conventional beef production. And while sustainability is a driving factor, the price of cell-based meat must also be comparable to traditional options today to see widespread adoption. Investment, research and development, and infrastructure are critical to accelerating the development of cultivated meat, and to protect the environment and address global food scarcity as a result.
In light of the current economic conditions, it is essential for food and beverage manufacturers to prioritise sustainability initiatives in 2023, while also thinking long-term about where the industry is headed and how organisations can adapt to consumer demand and remain competitive. Investing in innovative technology solutions that help take meaningful steps toward achieving environmental and business goals will be key in 2023.
Prioritising environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) is an integral part of profitable growth strategies. Manufacturers that leverage innovative technologies to address the social and environmental impact of the industry to reduce food and packaging waste, water consumption and electricity will continue to be a source of growth and transform the industry for years to come.