Sustainability Goes Mainstream
Greg Henderson, Drovers
February 7, 2020
Under intense pressure to meet demand for products that measure up to consumers’ personal values, U.S. food companies are feverishly working to rejuvenate their brands with green initiatives.
Last year’s IFIC Foundation’s Food and Health Survey found over half of consumers (54%) say it’s at least somewhat important that the products they buy be produced in an environmentally sustainable way.
Among those 54%, many consumers look for specific labels or attributes to assess whether they believe a product is environmentally sustainable: 51% perceive products that are locally produced are also environmentally sustainable, followed by products that are labeled as sustainably produced (47%), products labeled as non-GMO (47%) and products labeled as organic (44%).
In short, sustainable is no longer a fad. The heavy-hitters of the retail food industries are jockeying for position, and actively recruiting suppliers — farmers and ranchers — ready and willing to help meet new consumer demands.
Last fall McDonald’s named Stephen Hughes from Chinook Ranch, Alberta, Canada, as its first representative for McDonald’s Flagship Farmer Program, a global initiative that amplifies the stories of farmers and ranchers who exemplify best practices.
Selling 75 hamburgers in America every second, McDonald’s has the clout to effect change. But the company is far from alone in its embrace of sustainability. A non-governmental organization (NGO) called The Sustainability Consortium calculates an annual sustainability index it calls the Thesis Index, with participation by companies such as Walmart, Amazon and Kroger.
The Thesis Index reports, in the past year, 25% more companies have touted the environmental and social benefits of their products, and 40% of all companies say they’ve taken action to improve the ecofriendliness of their products.
Ranchers such as Hughes, whose Chinook Ranch spans 4,500 acres with 500 Hereford X Angus cows, 400 yearlings and 80 heifers, put a real-world image to such sustainability campaigns...
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