Sustainability, which by definition is the avoidance of the depletion of natural resources

in order to maintain an ecological balance, is a much-talked-about topic today and is used in a broader sense to mean environmental consciousness or Earth-friendliness. In the food and beverage and foodservice sectors, many grocers, food manufacturers, and restaurant operators are responding to consumer interest in sustainability and their own sense of social responsibility in protecting the environment. With all of the focus on sustainability, the question is, how are food and beverage and foodservice consumers responding?

Our recently launched Health Aspirations & Behavioral Tracking Service tells the story:

  • One in ten U.S. adults have switched to a different food or beverage brand because it had “Earth-friendly” packaging.
  • 9% of adults consider the environment a top factor when making food and beverage purchase decisions. Younger adults, aged 18 – 44, are most likely to feel this way.
  • Over half of adults who ordered restaurant take-out or delivery in the past 30 days report that the restaurant they ordered from had Earth-friendly practices, like using food containers made from recycled materials. Our SupplyTrack® service, which tracks shipments from broadline foodservice distributors to commercial and non-commercial foodservice operators, shows that although plastic straws still make up the bulk of straw foodservice shipments, plastic straw shipments are down 4%, and paper straw shipments are up 4%.

These numbers indicate progress is being made, but they’re still is a long way to go in terms of mass consumer adoption of sustainability efforts. It’s a complex issue with myriad ways to address it. Consumers are also taking time to distinguish between authentic sustainability efforts and “green-washing,” or promotion that is not backed up by effort. The good news is that the issue is now front and center. Although adoption may be slow, it’s on consumers’ minds, and change is beginning to happen.

Sustainability can be a deciding factor for consumers. While concerns like the taste, convenience, health, and affordability are still primary factors for choosing foods and beverages, a company’s sustainability efforts can be the tie-breaker if all other factors are equal.