Hot off the heels of United Fresh’s BrandStorm, there’s a renewed buzz around sustainability. For the produce industry, this isn’t a new topic. We’ve been pounding the pavement and leading the charge on everything from drip irrigation to more eco-friendly packaging.
Last March, we saw so many of our efforts come to a screeching halt. Suddenly, consumers who were calling for less plastic and packaging started calling for more. Less hands, less germs. It seems like all our progress was for nothing.
As things start to return to “normal” conversations around sustainability are growing. I can’t get on LinkedIn or open a trade newsletter without seeing something on the topic, and consumers are calling for it too.
The problem is there’s confusion over exactly what it means to be sustainable. Growers have a different perception from retailers, and consumers are all over the place.
Recently, while on an influencer farm tour with the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association, my hope was renewed as we heard from Florida farmers about their sustainability practices and how interested the attending influencers were in how these farms were conserving water, reducing food waste and working to enhance the land they’ve been entrusted with. Not only were these influencers excited to learn these things for themselves, they were excited to share this information with their followers.
Consumers today aren’t only concerned about what they’re eating, but also how that food is getting to them. Who is growing it? Where is it coming from? What is it packaged in? These are all important stories to tell.
The April edition of Eating Well magazine put sustainability front-and-center highlighting what’s next in food, including the most sustainable and innovative changes to the food industry, what consumers can do to save the bees and “green” kitchen cleaners to buy.
According to International Food Information Council’s 2020 Food & Health Survey, the impact of environmental sustainability on food purchases jumped from 27 percent in 2019 to 34 percent in 2020, a trend we’ll likely see continue to grow in coming years.
One way that we’re helping brands tell this story at Healthy Family Project is through our partnership with Harps Food Stores. Sustainability is one of the pillars of the year-round campaign we do in their fresh produce department each year.
Through the campaign microsite, social media and e-newsletter support, we’re showcasing the sustainable efforts of our partner brands to consumers through 2021, along with easy, actionable ways they too can be more sustainable at home.
I know what you’re going to say, “but how do we get consumers to pay more for it?”
In a recent Harvard Business Review study, 65 percent of people said they want to buy purpose-driven brands that advocate sustainability, yet only about 26 percent actually do so. So how do we close the gap?
Price and quality will always be top factors for consumer when selecting fresh produce, but we know that when shoppers are given two products with a similar price and quality, they’re more likely to pick the product that aligns with their views. Showcasing how your packaging is more eco-friendly or how you’re reducing your carbon footprint in a simple way that catches their attention could shift their purchase in your favor.
We’re all working toward being more sustainable. The future of ag depends on all of us to do our part, leaving the land better than we found it. And while consumer actions may not have caught up to beliefs quite yet, the shift is happening. The time to make changes is now, don’t get left behind on this important movement.
By Amber Gray, digital marketing manager for the Healthy Family Project