The fact that we all have a role to play in environmental and climate protection is hardly breaking news, as it has long been on the political and media agenda.
However, the food industry must also pull its weight. According to the UN’s International Panel on Climate Change, food production is responsible for an estimated 21 to 37 per cent of all carbon emissions from human activities, making it a main contributor to climate change. As a result, many consumers now expect companies to prioritise environmental protection. Innova Market Insight’s Trend Survey 2021 says that one in three consumers globally want companies to invest in sustainability, and two in five consumers are willing to pay extra for food and beverage products that address CO2 emissions. Fortunately, in many cases, innovative food firms are already outpacing legislators: from companies that produce carbon neutral, to those using animal cell cultures to create seafood alternatives.
If you take a closer look at the Fi Innovation Awards and the Startup Innovation Challenges in recent years, you will see that sustainable solutions are mushrooming. Yet this is hardly surprising, especially in the area of health ingredients, because products that are good for one’s own health –but have a negative impact on the climate and environment – are no longer acceptable to conscious consumers. From plant-based proteins, tools for supply chain transparency and edible fruit and vegetable coatings, to upcycling of food processing by-products – the winning companies reflect the fast pace of sustainability-related innovation.
Increasing appeal of meat alternatives
While the evolution of humankind can, in part, be attributed to the consumption of animal protein, today factory farming is under intense scrutiny. There are many reasons for this, including its heavy consumption of resources, high carbon footprint and ethical concerns. Alternative animal proteins, such as insects, as well as meat alternatives, i.e. from wheat, pea, soy, mycoprotein, algae and fava beans, are therefore an increasingly appealing option. But producing convincing isolates and texturates as meat alternatives involves energy-intensive processes. So, in terms of sustainability, there is room for further improvement. Sometimes small process adjustments can have a major impact on sustainability goals. But where certain processes cannot be avoided due to specific raw material properties, companies are more an more switching to heat recovery and other energy-saving measures.
According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, one-third of the food produced for human consumption goes to waste at every stage of the supply chain. Therefore, many companies are innovating with upcyling and circular economy solutions. By-products of coffee production, for example, are used in food colourants and wellness products. And de-fatted seeds from sunflower, hazelnut, coconut, sesame and others can be used as protein flours for food enrichment, or as alternatives to milk protein in vegan chocolate. Sustainable sourcing, new ways of packaging beyond plastic and process efficiency are also hot topics.
These are all much-needed steps in the right direction. However, we in the trade show industry must also play our part.
Sustainability at Fi Europe combined with Hi Europe
In terms of content, sustainability will be firmly in the spotlight at Fi and Hi Europe in Frankfurt, from 30 November to 2 December 2021, with the accompanying online programme starting on 22 November. The virtual agenda, including the previously mentioned Startup Innovation Challenge and the Awards, the Fi Conference, and the Innovation Hub on-site will cover topics such as upcycling, alternative sourcing and more efficient manufacturing processes. There will also be presentations on topics such as product carbon footprinting and labelling, and the creation of a more sustainable future.
However, sustainability does not only apply to the environment. Social sustainability is also crucial and that’s why the Fi Global team is supporting The Hunger Project – an initiative designed to end hunger and poverty by pioneering sustainable, grassroots, women-centered strategies. In this spirit of inclusion, the show organizer has also set itself the goal of offering women in the food industry their own platform.
With regards to the venue, this year there will be energy-saving LED lighting, renewable energy, waste reduction – for example, through the use of recyclable carpets – and the partial replacement of brochures with a show app and QR codes. Our goal as show organisers is to ensure that sustainability pervades our thinking, and that all decisions are made with social, ethical and environmental considerations in mind. Sometimes the result is one small step, sometimes it’s a giant leap – but always moving forward for the future of the planet.