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F&B Key Factor In Convergence Of Health And Environment

Food and beverage is perhaps the first industry to see the emerging trend for convergence of health and environment.

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With the sharp rise in awareness about environmental issues, consumers are getting more and more concerned with the environmental implications of what they consume. While problems related to environment and sustainability are present across multiple industries, food and beverage is ground zero for consumers wanting to make lifestyle changes to help the environment and improve their health.

According to the recent Tetra Pak Index about the 'Convergence of Health and Environment', 59% of consumers believe that their health and well-being are strongly affected by environmental problems. The more concerned about the environment they become, the more health-conscious they become too. 

This is a trend will only get stronger, driven particularly by the young, such as 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, who is inspiring millions to protest in the name of climate action. The study states that 71% consumers now overwhelmingly see themselves as being the most responsible for the environment and 74% believe that they are responsible for their own health, with little difference between the two. 

Health & Environment interrelated
Interestingly, the convergence of environmental and health concerns can be seen in many areas such as, air pollution and poor drinking water. Consumers have started seeing a correlation between health and the environment in the products they buy. For example, 47% think that the purchase choices they make for their health will have an impact on the environment. 37% of consumers who plan to buy more environment-friendly products say that it will have a positive impact on their physical health. In comparison to India, 56% think that the purchase choices they make for their personal health have an impact on the environment and 63% think that environmental issues have an impact on their health.

People want to change
Having said that, globally, consumers want to do the right thing. 63% consider recycling the trait of an environmentally sound person and 56% of respondents recycle everything they can. Recyclability is the joint top association with environmentally sound products as 38% of global respondents buy sustainable packaging. Recyclable also emerged as the third most appealing descriptor of a food or drink product overall. 

In India, while 75 % of consumers think it is important to live with minimal impact on the environment and 78 % aim to do good for the environment, recycling is not as common as compared to global results. 36% say that they don't see or have recycling collection facilities in her neighbourhoods. Even though the motivation to recycle exists, but lack of education and visible collection and recycling are a challenge.

Apart from recycling, 58% consumers across the globe believe that an environmentally sound person avoids plastic, with 45% saying that they avoid buying it and about 33% claiming that they plan to buy and use less plastic within the next 12 months. In India on the other hand, 61% believe that an environmentally sound person avoids plastic, 58% avoid buying it and 23%-24% consider micro-plastics to be detrimental to the environment and their health.

India and its concerns
In India, Global Warming emerged as the most worrying environmental concern overall followed by overpopulation and air pollution. 75% of Indians believe climate change is a result of human activity. With air pollution, diseases and mental health issues emerging as the most worrying health issues, 71% consumers in India believe that physical health is a major concern for society. 82 % of consumers think it is important to live with a healthy lifestyle and 84 % would sacrifice convenience for more healthy products. Interestingly, 84 % would pay more for healthy products as compared to a global 70%.

At the same time, two-thirds consumers globally, believe that the world is heading towards an environmental disaster and believe that the modern lifestyles are a fundamental part of the problem. They feel that negatively impacting on both health and the environment particularly what we eat and drink, result in a vicious circle that negatively impacts on both. India too has a similar outlook; 71% Indians believe that the world is heading for environmental disaster unless we change our daily habits.

The light at the end of the tunnel
Though many want to change their consumption behaviour, cost, lack of knowledge, lack of availability and/or credibility of options are all major barriers. There is an interesting opportunity for brands that can help consumers to overcome these barriers and meet their growing need to live healthier, more environmentally sound lives.

The most successful brands going forward will be those that can demonstrate purpose and show that they are making positive contribution to society beyond just providing good services and products. Food and beverage is perhaps the first industry to see the emerging trend for convergence of health and environment. It provides a new opportunity for brands to make a powerful, purposeful, personal connection with consumers by addressing and communicating both at the same time.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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F&B Sector

Jaideep Gokhale

The author is Vice President - Sustainability, Tetra Pak - Asia Pacific

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