One of 2021’s biggest food trends is plant-based meats hitting the mainstream. This isn’t just because of an increased concern for animal welfare but also out of consumers’ growing desire to be more environmentally conscious with what they eat. As the threats of global climate change come looming closer, many of us are starting to see the reality of a changing world before our eyes. And as a result, more of us are looking to do what we can to change our habits and make them more compatible with a greener, healthier planet.
Here are 5 food trends that are doing their bit to tackle climate change. They may only be small fragments now, but expect to see these trends rise into the mainstream in the next couple of years.
1. Lab grown meats
Soon, plant-based meats will be so 2021. Lab-grown meats will take over with their superior replication of meat’s flavour and texture, all while emitting 96% less greenhouse gases, using 96% less water, needing 99% less land, and requiring 45% less energy than traditional meats. Listening yet? Lab-grown meats, also known as ‘clean meats’, are grown from stem cells that have been harvested from living animals. The muscle cells are taken through a biopsy, mixed with a collagen matrix, and grown in a lab where they multiply and turn into strips of skeletal muscle. The fat cells are co-cultured to better imitate the taste and texture of meat.
When lab-grown meats hit the mainstream, they’ll cost far less than traditional meat and have a whole host of other sustainability benefits that make them more appealing to the environmentally conscious consumer. Clean meats will be healthier, since scientists can control the amount of fat and nutritional content in the meat. They’ll also make us less susceptible to outbreaks like swine flu. Most importantly, using lab-grown meats will diminish the need for livestock, whose waste contributes to 51% of all greenhouse gas emissions. And that’s a major factor in reversing climate change.
2. Upcycled foods
One of the biggest issues in the food industry is the amount of food waste that we generate year after year. This is one of the most important problems that we need to tackle as a planet. More recently, we’re starting to see a lot more innovation from brands and startups who are looking to reduce food waste and make the most of foods that would otherwise be chucked in the bin. Enter the ‘upcycled foods’ trend, which looks at reusing parts of food to make a whole new product.
One example of upcycled foods is Olam Coffee, which has created a range of food products that use ‘cascara’, the skin of coffee cherry fruits. Normally tossed aside, cascara becomes the star in Olam Coffee’s range of tea infusions, jams, jellies, powders, and fillings. Why waste this superfruit when you can create a whole product line out of it? Other upcycled food companies we’ve seen include Wonky Veg Boxes, which distribute veggies that are deemed ‘too ugly’ for the supermarket, and Toast Ale, which brews beer using excess bread that would have gone to waste.
3. Next level eco-friendly packaging
We’re already seeing so much eco-friendly packaging, and in 2021 this will go next level with even more compostable, biodegradable, and recycled packaging. One study found that 74% of consumers were willing to pay more for a product that uses sustainable packaging, and brands are listening. If not for their own desire to reduce their impact and embrace eco-friendly practices, more companies will use eco-friendly packaging to better appeal to conscious consumers. We’re already seeing this with PepsiCo, who have committed to eliminating all virgin plastics from their bottles in nine European countries by 2022. It’s a start, and we’ll only see more and more brands follow suit – lest they look bad in the eyes of consumers.
We’ll also be seeing lots of more inventive and innovative types of eco-friendly packaging. This includes plant-based plastics or bio plastics like biodegradable shrink films. Plant-based packaging is appealing in so many ways, taking less carbon to produce, creating less waste, and not releasing any toxins into the atmosphere when broken down.
4. Vertical farming
The vertical farming method offers so much in terms of environmental responsibility as well as encouraging local eating and reducing the need for pesticides. This is exactly what it sounds like – a type of farming that focuses on growing crops vertically instead of horizontally. Vertical farming uses crop layers that are stacked on top of each other, sometimes staggered to let natural light filter through, and enclosed within a structure. It’s compatible with all different types of farming, including soil, hydroponic, or aeroponic farming methods. LED lights can also be used in place of natural sunlight.
Vertical farming is such an appealing way to grow foods as it allows crops to easily be grown organically, without pesticides, and uses up less space than a normal farm would. Taking up less space and farming vertically means there’s more opportunity to have local farms within cities and townships, reducing the need to transport fruit and veg back and forth and releasing carbon emissions in the process. Enclosing the crops within a vertical structure also makes them less affected by weather conditions, meaning less crops are lost and more can be harvested. Expect to see more from this realm as it grows in awareness and popularity…
5. Eco labels
It started with the Organic label, then Fair Trade, Non-GMO, and Rainforest Alliance. Now, we’re seeing more eco labels than ever – and they’re only increasing in number. Today, there are more than 200 eco labels on the market, reflecting consumers’ desire to eat foods that are doing their bit for the planet. And the more labels that there are, the more that brands want to have those labels on their products. Which means the more labels, the more that brands start to engage with more responsible practices.
As a whole, we’re more conscious than ever about what we put in our mouths. And as a result, we’re more skeptical about what brands are selling to us. Eco labels help consumers pick out the brands that are doing their bit to responsibly source food materials and minimise their impact on the Earth. They’re also a sign of how powerful consumers can be when it comes to asking companies to make a change. For example, the RSPO label is a new eco label focused on using sustainable palm oil. This has been a huge source of boycotting from many consumers due to its unsustainable farming practices.