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How big is the appetite for sustainable food?

17 May 2024, 9:45 UTC 3 min read

Jeroen Gerlag

How big is the appetite for sustainable food?

At Climate Group, we've been working on food sustainability for some time, with the objective of reducing the emissions intensity of food, to achieve our goal of a net zero world by 2050. We’re working with powerful coalitions of businesses and governments to target a range of issues within the food supply chain, particularly in agriculture. 

This month, our Head of Climate Group Europe, Jeroen Gerlag, spoke at ‘The Future of Food and Beverage Conference’ in Amsterdam. Hosted by Innovation Forum, the session asked three key questions: 

  • How big is the appetite for sustainable food?  
  • How is consumer pressure pushing brands to prioritise sustainability?  
  • And, in turn, how can brands engage and communicate with consumers on food sustainability? 

We spoke with Jeroen, to reflect on the session and the role that Climate Group has in addressing these key questions, to drive a more sustainable food chain. 

From the session, and from the whole summit, we could see the appetite for sustainable food. In particular, shifting diets towards more plant-based proteins and fewer meat proteins was much discussed.  

At Climate Group, we are currently working with a group of subnational governments in our Under2 Coalition network, to scope and research how they can shift their food procurement to encourage more sustainable diets and what the challenges are. Governments have huge potential and power to shift demand and diets towards more sustainable food, for instance for schools and in offices. They have levers to do so as well, for example by discussing more sustainable menu options with caterers to ‘nudge’ consumers and citizens. They can also change policies to encourage sustainable diets and help consumers to eat better.  

How is consumer pressure pushing brands to prioritise sustainability? 

We want consumers to eat more sustainably, as we know that reducing the emissions intensity of food is critical to achieving our goal of a net zero world by 2050, and consumer habits play a role in this reduction. But sometimes they don't know how or feel overwhelmed by marketing. We feel that direct consumer communication, nudging, and education, as well as pre-consumer changes are needed. Climate Group is an expert in helping to shift demand within systems that need to be decarbonised. We did that for transport, industry and energy and we’re now doing this for food with the subnational governments and businesses in our networks. 

What is the importance of wider transparency about food procurement, and what does Climate Group’s role in this look like? 

Food procurement happens at various stages in the food supply chains so there are many entry points to this conversation. But in starting with procurement by subnational governments, we can actively work on an important part of those chains - because if there is demand for more sustainable, plant-based food, the companies that sell food and the catering companies will follow. Governments can stimulate demand. However, we’ll not only work with our governments, but also with our existing network of food and beverage companies and beyond. The more transparent we can be about, for instance, the emissions footprint of various food products, the more we can work towards better options for both people and planet.  

Also, a much-discussed topic at the summit was the lack of collaboration within food supply chains, between companies, competitors, farmers and governments. As an organisation, we have wide experience in bringing together various stakeholders around climate solutions and enabling them to work together on commitments and solutions, using each other's best practices, learnings and networks.

Key takeaways and the future of food procurement

Some key takeaways from the summit include: 

  • The role of food in the sustainability conversation is growing rapidly, and is of increasing importance for companies, consumers and governments  
  • Collaboration between stakeholders is key  
  • Working with governments to improve their food procurement results in better meals and more sustainable options for consumers and citizens, as well as better health outcomes and therefore decreased health costs 

Today, we’re having conversations that would have been inconceivable five years ago. Now we need to start developing strong partnerships and establish pre-competitive collaboration between governments and suppliers to prioritise sustainable food procurement for a healthier future for all. 

To learn more about the work we do in food procurement, contact Jeroen Gerlag.