S U S TA I N A B I L I T Y
PICTURE THIS. A shopper of the future is rushing around the supermarket. They care about where their food comes from, particularly its green credentials. They see a bottle of olive oil with a green tick. What does it mean? Is it genuine? No longer do they have to take out their smartphone to test the brand’s credentials.
Instead they put their hand over the bottle and information about its provenance appears in a digital panel above the product.
This vision of the supermarket of the future comes from Central European co- operative retailer Coop, presented at Expo Milano, a six-month exhibition taking place between May and October this year. The expo is advertised as an opportunity to exchange ideas and share solutions on food themes, and promote innovation for a sustainable future.
NZ trade commissioner Ann Clifford is working at the exhibition, and says sustainability is definitely a focus of retailers in Europe.
European shoppers increasingly want more than just food that won’t poison them; they are looking to buy products with proven ethical and environmental sustainability, she says.
Nearly one third of UK shoppers sought out ethically sourced and environmentally friendly products in 2014 and over 83% of UK households purchased organic products in 2014, according to Nielsen research.
Clifford says any food brand wanting to enter the UK market has to have an element of its sales pitch focused on how the company has addressed sustainability. In this case, sustainability means provenance and care of the raw product, minimising waste, making the most of the raw material through finding a variety of ways to use it, and the ability to tell and back up your story.
Clifford says Kiwi companies are in a great place to meet the sustainability trend, but we shouldn’t assume consumers know that.
“Few UK consumers realise that pretty much all NZ lamb and beef is grass fed. Being aware of trends and telling the story well is important,” she says.
While New Zealand companies should be pushing their sustainability criteria in Europe and the US, the story is different in Asia, where the sustainability focus is more around health than animal welfare or care for the environment, according to NZTE’s 2014 Sustainability Trends for Food and Beverage in Asia report.
Singapore is probably five years behind Europe in terms of consumer concern about the environmental and ethical impact of what they eat, and places like South Korea could be 10 years behind, the report says.
In China and Taiwan the focus is more on safety than sustainability, after a number of food scares, although in India the two are linked after the widespread harmful use of pesticides, toxic colours, ripening and storage agents.
Hong Kong may be the Asian exception to the rule, the report suggests, at least in terms of fishing. The territory is one of the world’s largest per capita consumers of seafood, with the average resident consuming four times more fish than the world average.
Overfishing has led to a dramatic decline in fish stocks meaning local consumers are paying more attention to sustainable fishing issues, according to the NZTE report.