The Covid-19 pandemic forced us all to change our lifestyle, including our purchasing habits and food consumption. The shift we had to make of a bigger share of our lives from offline to online, provided a big boost to the so-called stay-at-home economy: online shopping boomed – included food shopping – and companies had to quickly adjust their offer to our new needs. The emergency also led us all to pay more attention to our health and to the impact made on the environment by our food choices. This new trend – made of sustainable choices for a healthier lifestyle – is still ongoing and due to stay. 

Companies have recently started to invest larger capitals in recyclable packaging solutions, renewable energy sources and in a more conscious water management. With the aim of offering more vegetable-derived proteins – since the production of standard meat and dairy through farming has been proven to consume a third of all the water used in agriculture – a rapid development is happening in the plant-based sector as well. The consumption of plant-based food is growing in parallel with the improvements that the industry is implementing, especially when it comes to the shape and taste of the products. The new, ideal consumer is the one who follows a semi-vegetarian diet, also called flexitarian (flexible+vegetarian) diet, that centers on plant-derived foods with the occasional inclusion of meat.

At the same time, the combination of the impact of the pandemic with the Ukrainian conflict is causing a record growth of raw material prices, especially in the agricultural sector. The market is already registering significant shortages of wheat, barley, corn, sunflower oil and fertilizers of which Russia and Ukraine are the major exporters. The drought that we have been witnessing in the last few months does not help either. Given the current situation, many countries are being forced to look for supplies abroad in order to satisfy their domestic demand while others have already suspended exports to protect their internal consumers. 

In this context, a return to a shorter supply chain is easily predictable. This will help consumers to become even more conscious about the social and environmental impact their choices can make and to promote, in turn, organic, sustainable and innovative products.

Since the world population is due to grow by 30%, reaching soon a staggering 9.8 million people, new frontiers need to be explored and more sustainable habits will have to be developed. Besides insects and lab-grown meat, what will the foods of the future be?

Carolina Bassino

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