Mindful choices: how the food industry can cater to “ethical” trends

04 Jun 2018
More and more, consumers are making food purchasing decisions based on ethical considerations. “Mindful choices” is the top trend predicted for 2018. How should food manufacturers and brands cater to these ethical demands?

What is the ethical trend?

Trends like fair trade, free-from and clean label have been on the rise for over a decade for food products within the food industry. However, now more than ever, consumers are concerned with making responsible choices when it comes to their food – both for the sake of their own physical health, for the wellbeing of the environment they inhabit, and for their own peace of mind. Interest in ethical issues surrounding products has also risen. Research by Innova Marketing Insights has shown that half of the US, UK and German consumer population reads ingredient labels often, and 70 percent of them want to be able to understand what ingredients a product contains. It is key for food manufacturers and brands to be aware of, and cater to, these and other ethical demands.

Use food processes with clean labels

Clean label is one of the most important ways for the food industry to respond to the ethical trend. The consumer’s concern lies in ensuring their food is “natural”, which means both ingredients that aren’t artificial (more on that later) and food that is minimally processed (and without chemicals). Clean label is offering natural alternatives. Alternatives abound: traditional processes like fermented foods and cold brew tea and coffee are already being revived, and innovative processes are being developed.

Emphasize sustainability

Consumers’ main purchasing driver – particularly that of Millennials – is a product’s sustainability. This was already proven in a Nielsen study in 2015, and has now been confirmed by the recent Innova study. That means ensuring the sustainability of your product’s ingredients has become ever more important. Ingredients that are found closer to home, with a low environmental footprint, are preferred. Choosing alternatives like potato based ingredients, which are locally grown and fair trade, offer a green and sustainable solution to consumer demands. Processes that are part of a circular economy will also be appreciated by consumers.

Help consumers understand the labels

Understanding what’s in a product remains a big ethical issue for consumers. Many food brands have already started to label their products not with their artificial, chemical names (such as tocopherol) but instead by a name that is easily recognizable to the consumer (such as Vitamin E). Others have replaced their artificial ingredients with more natural ones altogether. To cater to the ethical trend, it is imperative for food manufacturers and brands to be transparent and clear about all the ingredients they use – and why.

Want to know more about sustainable alternatives? Download our whitepaper ‘Green vegan confectionery for all’.

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