The food industry has come a long way from the time when there were only two requirements for food: tasty and cheap. Today, food is an essential part of our identity as individuals and as a society. From sharing presentable pictures of a fancy dish on social media to carefully reading through packaging information to better understand the contents of the food we are consuming, food has become an important part of life and the way we identify and express ourselves as people sharing this planet.
Despite the growing complexity of options – we’ve all seen the range of niche cuisines and diets catering to individual preferences to fulfill our identities – one aspect will remain fundamental to all future food solutions: sustainability. The focus is no longer solely on providing nutrition but on doing so in a sustainable manner. The need for sustainable solutions has become even more pressing with the increasing concern about climate change and the impact of the food industry on the environment.
The food industry needs to do better – and the opportunities are endless
Globally, only half of food production is consumed by humans. A quarter is fed to animals, and a quarter is lost. Every year, the world generates 931 million tons of food waste, translating to an average of 74 kilograms per person. In the worst cases only about 5% of calories produced is actually used for our nutrition after extensive processing. Animal proteins are particularly inefficient: they consume vast amounts of calories but only contain 6–10% of the energy in the average diet.
With the food industry accounting for over a quarter of the global greenhouse gas emissions, and roughly one third of the climate impacts of food production being caused by food waste, it’s clear that we need to do better in the future. And we will.
The good news is that many companies are already setting sustainability as the core focus in their product development. From reducing food waste to creating plant-based alternatives to animal products, sustainable solutions are transforming the food industry. Investors are also taking note of the potential in the food tech industry, with nearly 40 billion dollars invested in the sector in 2021. The rise of sustainable solutions in the food industry presents an exciting opportunity for startups to make a difference and make a profit.
From alternative protein products to milk made from fungi and insect-based ingredients, the possibilities for sustainable food solutions are endless. By changing the game and prioritizing sustainability, the food industry can make a positive impact on the environment and our health while still delivering tasty, nutritious food that fulfills our identities as individuals and as a society.