Certifiably Sustainable – Navigating Consumer Trends in 2024

By Jared Simon, President of Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods and Tilray Wellness

Coming out of the recent COP 28 climate change summit in Dubai, there is an even greater need to focus on the role that food systems can play in addressing climate change. Consumer awareness of the connection between their food choices and their environmental impact has never been greater. As we step into 2024, sustainability should be at the forefront of purchasing and supply chain decisions.

Why Has Sustainability Taken Center Stage? 

Based on Google Trends search behavior, interest in “sustainable food” has risen by a staggering 52% over the last two years. Consumers now view sustainability as an integral part of their holistic wellness, aligning environmental benefits with their community and nutritional values. A remarkable 77% of all shoppers consider sustainability to be an important factor when selecting products, an 8% increase from 2021.

Adding fuel to the movement, governments and businesses are aligning their agendas with environmentally protective policies. The Canadian Government has pledged net-zero emissions by 2050, and the US Government set a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50–52% from 2005 levels by 2030. This includes "Net-Zero" commitments in government procurement, operations, and infrastructure, compelling businesses to proactively prioritize sustainability.

Meeting the Demand for Sustainable Food Products

To cater to the growing demand for sustainable foods, retailers should understand how consumers are qualifying sustainable products: Third-Party Certification. Three out of four shoppers rely on labels or third-party certifications to confirm a company’s or product’s sustainability credentials.

To reinforce your businesses quality standards, here are a few key certifications your company can obtain:

  1. Regenerative Organic Certified (ROC): “Regen” is the fastest-growing trend in sustainable foods. In 2022, claims related to "regenerative agriculture" in consumer packaged goods (CPG) surged by over 130%. Often referred to as “regen,” regenerative farming actively contributes to reversing climate change by restoring degraded soil, enhancing biodiversity, increasing carbon capture and improving farmer livelihoods. It certifies that, as suppliers, we’re leaving the earth better than we found it.

  2. Organic Certification: Organic certification guarantees consumers that their food will be grown without toxic pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, or genetically modified organisms (GMOs). It also guarantees that no antibiotics or growth hormones are given to livestock.

  3. CarbonZero: Certification bodies like CarbonZero are pivotal in assisting brands to measure, offset, and reduce their carbon footprints. Achieving carbon neutrality involves a dual strategy: reducing carbon emissions with set benchmarks and investing in carbon offsets. As retailers and governments strive for carbon neutrality, CarbonZero certification will become table stakes for most food suppliers.

Trends shaping consumer behavior in 2024 underscore the pivotal role of sustainability in retail and food supply. In 2024, sustainability should be at the forefront of retailer's purchasing and supply chain decisions.

By Jared Simon, President of Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods & Tilray Wellness

Hemp: A Remarkable Ally in Sustainability 

As sustainability takes center stage, breakthrough ingredients that support environmental health will lead food trends. Hemp stands out for its nutritional profile as a complete source of protein, its robust omega-3 fatty acid profile, and for its ability to draw carbon out of the atmosphere. One single acre of Hemp can offset an average American or Canadian’s Carbon Footprint for a year.

Trends shaping consumer behavior in 2024 underscore the pivotal role of sustainability in retail and food supply. Businesses that embrace third-party certifications, foster education, and align with sustainable practices will not only meet consumer expectations but also position themselves as leaders in a rapidly evolving marketplace.

The State of the Retail Industry 2024

JAN 2024