Where will sustainable food production be heading in 2022? Emerging trends and new consumption habits will set the tone for more environmentally conscious food industry.
Why develop sustainable food production?
According to the UN, 811 million people suffered from hunger in 2020, increasing 20% over the previous year. And although the need to expand and improve food production is evident, the urgency lies in increasing the processes’ sustainability, as the food industry is a significant emitter of greenhouse gases.
It is a big challenge, considering that we must meet the food demand in quantity and quality and adopt more environmentally friendly practices to reduce the sector’s carbon footprint.
Therefore, reinventing the industry with innovative solutions is a critical issue for humankind.
6 sustainable food trends
More conscious processes and more demanding customers for food production and distribution practices are just some of the new developments in the industry. What trends await the food industry in 2022? Let’s review.
1. Increased interest in plant-based foods
The plant-based food market has been perfecting its offerings to meet the requirements of increasingly demanding consumers by emulating the taste of other foods.
Meat, dairy, seafood, and other foods developed from plant-based products -which tend to be healthier and just as nutritious as those derived from animals- strive daily to combine sustainability and nutritional value.
The plant-based market is a promising one: it is estimated that its value could reach 162 billion dollars in the next decade (from almost US$30 billion in 2020), showing the industry’s potential.
Along this line, and according to Good Food Institute, in the United States, 27% more plant-based foods are sold and, although the plant-based market in Chile is not lagging -an increase of 5% between 2018 and 2021- still has a long way to go in this subject.
2. Less meat consumption
Less meat, but better quality, is another trend that will set sustainability’s food standard in 2022.
This practice matches the flexitarian diet, in which meat consumption is reduced but not eliminated. Today, more and more people are concerned about carbon footprint and its environmental damage and health issues and cutting out animal cruelty when consuming eggs, cheese, milk, or meat.
With more than 15,000 liters of water needed to produce a single kilogram of beef, there is a clear need to transform the meat industry, for example, through laboratory-grown meat.
By 2040, consumption of conventional meat will fall by 3% (CAGR), while cultured meat will grow by 41%, reflecting a profound change in the population’s preferences.
3. Boost endemic crops
The pandemic highlighted one of the significant problems of the food industry: overly centralized supply chains. This has resulted in a strengthening of local food production, with a preference for food that proves to be sustainable and nutritious.
Considering that 75% of plant-based foods come from only 12 plants, the potential for rediscovering traditionally ignored crops is tremendous.
That is why several companies are already researching orphan crops: those plants that have been left aside over time and yet were crucial to various cultures. Here are some examples:
- Pigeon pea or pole bean. An ancestral legume grows in Africa and India, resistant to drought and rich in proteins and minerals.
- Millet. A cereal from arid regions of Asia and Africa, particularly rich in amino acids.
- Winged bean. A plant native to Southeast Asia, its leaves and roots are edible and full of protein.
- Amaranth. A Central American plant essential to the Incas and Mayas. It has gained popularity because it produces grain quickly and is nutritious, and it is also highly resistant to drought.
There are more than 20,000 species of edible plants distributed throughout the world. To achieve food decentralization, we need to identify them and use them sustainably.
4. Develop organic and regenerative agriculture.
When we talk about organic agriculture, we refer to traditional practices, which adapted agriculture and food production to the area’s climatic and geographical conditions.
On the other hand, regenerative agriculture is a series of actions and a paradigm shift. This concept entails adopting sustainable practices such as increased biodiversity for better soil health and water use.
5. Immune-boosting food
Today, even more people are becoming aware of food’s effect on the body; they seek to incorporate a healthy diet while preventing diseases.
Thus, foods such as spinach, ginger, garlic, broccoli, or blueberries -which boost the immune system– have gained more and more prominence in the diets of thousands of people. Something similar happens with sunflower seeds, almonds, kiwifruit, dark chocolate, and oranges, widely recommended by specialists.
6. Handle food as per the upcycled trend
The UN Environment Program (UNEP) reports that one-third of the food produced for humanity (1.3 billion tons) is wasted annually.
That is why more and more companies and individuals are joining the upcycle, a trend that prioritizes recycling and reuse practices. The association Upcycled Food points out that manufacturing new quality products from discarded food would avoid this problem.
Companies will also look for new packaging processes that reduce the carbon footprint, like edible packaging. One example is Holly Grounds’ instant noodle packaging, made from potato starch, water, and glycerin.
PolyNatural’s Shel-Life® is the result of this sustainable trend. This 100% natural emulsion, made from vegetable lipids and polymers, creates a coating that keeps the original taste and feels like the fruit’s skin itself; it is also free of chemicals and petroleum derivatives. As a result, Shel-Life® keeps the freshness of fruits and vegetables for longer, reducing the carbon footprint and waste of resources: it has saved 880.750 m3 of water.
As we can see, the trends for 2022 point towards sustainable food production, focusing on nutritional value and eliminating animal cruelty from production chains, and optimizing the use of resources such as water and soil.