by Carrie Janot
Vice President, Marketing

Sustainability Trends in Food & Beverage

Each year, we head to Natural Products Expo West (NPEW) to discover the latest trends leading the way for food and beverage—which we publish in our InsightsNow Naturally Trending™ Food & Beverage Report. Previous trends from 2023 explored are Taste is King, Diversification of Plant-Based Applications, and New and Growing Marketing Claims. Here we explore the fourth trend, “Focus on Sustainability.”


Companies Striving Toward Sustainability

During our assessment of companies at NPEW, we discovered that 60% of them are actively working toward sustainable business practices and mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. Examples of these efforts involve embracing plant-based practices, showcasing sustainability in ingredient sourcing and manufacturing processes, utilizing eco-friendly packaging, and offering products that promote behavioral changes towards a sustainable future.

Sustainability was shown to be a rising priority not only for smaller and emerging companies but also for major multi-brand corporations. Ambitious goals are being set aimed at making a measurable impact in the coming decade, with companies across the board actively taking steps towards enhancing sustainability in various aspects of their operations. This collective response throughout the industry reflects attentiveness to consumer demands—as more and more individuals express their desire for sustainable products.

To see some of the highlighted brands, download the report.


Going Beyond: Ingredient Suppliers

It is notable that numerous ingredient suppliers have established specialized divisions dedicated to regenerative and sustainable practices. This significant step demonstrates their commitment to developing agricultural infrastructure that supports sustainable crop development, and will be something to keep an eye on. The article “Industry underscores how sustainability is shaping ingredient development” by Food Ingredients 1st talks about redesigning agricultural practices in a variety of ways to meet sustainability requirements and demands.


Sustainability Certifications

Also at NPEW, we noted a significant rise in sustainability certifications—specifically those that validate farming practices resulting in measurable improvements in environmental impact. By obtaining these certifications, food and beverage companies can demonstrate their dedication to reducing ecological footprints and showcase adherence to environmentally friendly practices. For consumers, proof of companies’ commitment to sustainable agriculture and responsible environmental stewardship can tip the scales in decision-making.


Upcycled Foods and Consumer Engagement

One of the products highlighted in our Naturally Trending™ Food & Beverage Report is from Loop Mission. Loop Mission has found a distinctive niche within the sustainability landscape by focusing on food upcycling. They identified food waste as the third largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and successfully attracted the attention of producers, manufacturers and distributors to the cause of process-wide emission reduction. In order to succeed in market, the company places great importance on engaging with customers and actively seeking feedback through diverse market research approaches, including social listening. Through these efforts, they have gained valuable insights, discovering that consumers not only prioritize upcycling but also place a strong emphasis on clean label products—allowing them to adjust their product innovation and messaging accordingly.


Warning Against Greenwashing

An important consideration when companies move toward sustainability is the issue of greenwashing. Food and beverage companies must take the necessary steps to ensure their sustainability messaging is accurate and transparent. To achieve this, brands should conduct thorough research and analysis to establish the relevance, uniqueness, believability, importance and brand fit of their sustainability efforts. By leveraging consumer insights, brands can effectively communicate their commitment to sustainability and build trust with their audience—and avoid the pitfalls of greenwashing.


Sustainability is a prominent topic of discussion at InsightsNow, driven not only by our organization’s commitment to fostering a happier and healthier world but also by the increasing consumer demand for sustainability at both the company and product levels. As sustainability continues to gain significance among consumers, it is a crucial consideration for businesses moving forward.