World Food Day: Time to relook at our food choices

October 15, 2020 1:47 PM

Consumers prefer buying products which have a clear defined sense of purpose and pick products that confirm to their ideas and beliefs of leading a heathier life and sustainable planet.

Consumers can bring in the change in the way food system operates since they are the center piece of it. (Image: Getty Images via IE)

By Himanshu Bakshi

Today more than ever, the famous quote from Hippocrates ‘Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food’ holds true, as the pandemic puts the spotlight on health, wellbeing, diet and Immunity. All these are intrinsically linked, and we can no longer ignore the fine balance between food and health. You are after all what you eat. Food is the elixir of life and the foundation around which our cultures and communities coalesce. As we understand the complex role Food plays in our lives, we also need to become more aware of another dimension that affects the food conundrum.

As we grapple with the need to provide food to millions, the pressure on the food system to feed the masses has never been greater. A confluence of factors like rising populations, changing diet patterns and often faulty agriculture practices has led to an unexpected fallout – environment degradation. The environment impact of food systems is becoming a reality which can’t be buried in the sand. The existing food systems are multi layered with each layer contributing its share to environment degradation. The entire moving parts of food supply chain: from production to processing, retail and storage partakes the blame. Everything we eat depends on the earth that it grows in or feeds on. Contributing to tackle this huge environmental challenge is critical for our ability to strengthen the resilience of our global food chain and pave the way for future sustainable business growth.

While global food production is posing a threat to biodiversity and is contributing to its depletion, unless consumers push for responsible practices – the change in practices may not materialize.

You (Consumer) have the power

Consumers can bring in the change in the way food system operates since they are the center piece of it. The millennials are already leading the way. They are now demanding products which are not only healthy but also want to know how the product is manufactured and sold. The eldest millennials are embracing parenthood and reaching new milestones in their life. Demand for products which are nutrient dense and anchored in local tastes is on the rise. Millennials are voicing their concerns about how the products which they are buying are impacting the planet and the environment they live in.

The playbook of consumer retention is being re written. Digital has accelerated this change with consumers now becoming more adept in seeking information which was hitherto undiscovered. This new wave of inquisitiveness has empowered consumers to ask questions, seek answers and voice their concerns. There are bevy of communities dotting the internet which are focussed on health and environment.

This perceptible change in consumer behavior is driving food revolution which urges food companies to be more responsible towards the products they make and be cognizant about the environment impact. This food revolution will underscore the much-needed transformation required to change the food system making it more sustainable and resilient in the long run.

The writing on the wall is very clear

Consumers prefer buying products which have a clear defined sense of purpose and pick products that confirm to their ideas and beliefs of leading a heathier life and sustainable planet. They will not hesitate to jump ships if they feel the brands they use do not share their set of values and beliefs. Food companies must respond to this call of action and understand the new consumer dynamic that is affecting their buying preferences. All stakeholders of the food system must come together to address this new consumer demand that urges food systems to deliver healthy food without compromising on the health of the planet.

(The author is Managing Director, Danone India. Views expressed are presonal.)

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