Plant – Focused Diet to Transform the Planet’s Future
History has shown that the way we eat has changed dramatically over the past hundred years. And especially during recent years, we saw massive changes with trends moving towards vegetarian, vegan, and healthier food.
Veganism used to be about health and animal welfare. But the goalposts of a growing plant-based diet movement have shifted, with people increasingly motivated to ditch meat for the sake of the planet. With around 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions caused by livestock farming, a “new” veganism has emerged on the back of the climate crisis. Ethical farming practices and sustainability considerations have started to play significant roles in tackling the issues we face. While many people still love animal protein more than ever, some have realized that we cannot continue to produce and consume it in the quantities we were raised to expect. The energy requirements and ecological consequences of mass production of animal protein are clearly unsustainable.
It’s no surprise that plants are healthy, and most of us don’t eat the recommended amount of fruits and veggies, so making the majority of your diet plant-based will up your produce ante, which is a nutritious choice. Whether you’re considering eating less meat or giving it up entirely, the benefits are clear: less risk of disease and improved health and well-being. Specifically, less meat decreases the risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, and many cancers, to name a few.
With the new decade just around the corner, there is no doubt that plant-based innovation will continue to flourish. We will see amplified versions of similar trends spread across into more specialized categories. The use of the term plant-based will advance more into the mainstream; the industry and start-up companies, in particular, are taking up the challenge to deliver cleaner label products and dairy alternatives with improved nutritional profiles. Conscious consumerism will once again be at the heart of industry trends next year, with consumers continuing to put their own health, alongside the health of our planet.
Many meat-eaters are now asking for natural protein sources to reduce their meat intake. With more education around these topics, consumers also desire more creativity, flexibility, and variety in their diets; therefore, they are experimenting with new products and adding plant based meal combinations to the mix. The emergence of plant-based sausage on the heels of the plant-based burger trend is not an arbitrary evolution. Ground products like burgers are easier to mimic than whole muscle products like steaks, and the flavour profile of sausage is forgiving for plant-based product formulators. We will see a rise in plant-based meat for breakfast too.
Mindful Eaters want to know much more about where their food comes from and are now engaged in the process, instead of being just passive participants of the food system. Although prices will continue to drive purchasing decisions, the numbers of citizens who make decisions based on health and sustainability will continue to grow.
Younger people, particularly millennials and generation Z will continue to drive a shift heading to the regional cuisines of Africa, South Asia, and Latin America, experimenting with new food ingredients and those that improve gut and mental health. Expect to see a move towards more foodie focussed activism in 2020 as the impact of food (mainly animal-based proteins) on climate, biodiversity (e.g., the links between diet and the Amazon forest fires) and human health comes to the fore. Citizens are going to want to know where their food is grown, how it is grown, and how much farmers are getting paid. It isn’t just about the end product anymore. If the 2019 news headlines about climate change, the Amazon deforestation, and news about the plastic in our seas have shown us anything, it is that citizens will increasingly demand high transparency, both around packaging and in foodstuffs.
The food we feed our two-legged, four-legged, and fishy friends will come into sharp focus over the next few years as well. Research shows a significant spike in consumers’ understanding of how sustainability impacts animal feed. Research and innovation focussing on nutrition, health, and sustainability impacts of alternative feeds will accelerate with a focus on sustainable substitute feeds that can reduce reliance on both soya and fish meal.
The rapid growth and development of a whole range of smart technologies will continue to play a role in boosting productivity and food security while improving farmers’ resilience and income. The spread and use of smartphone technologies in many parts of the developing world will allow farmers to predict weather patterns (including floods, fires, etc.), incidences of pests and diseases and enable farmers to share geographical specific knowledge, information and advice online, using formats that are user-friendly for multiple literacy levels.
The media and consumer interest on the impacts of plastic will continue to drive the debate and innovation in packaging alternatives in 2020 as well. There will be further rollouts of plastic free aisles, natural and compostable packaging materials with additional pressure on governments to ban the use of single-use plastic products. Several food companies have already committed to clean labeling in recent months – the use of simple, recognizable, and wholesome ingredients free from a multitude of flavorings, preservatives, sugars, and GMO based products.
If the pace of change over the last ten years has been fast, be warned. The pace of change is likely to accelerate as we enter the 2020s – but don’t we need a radical change in direction if we are to address the challenges confronting us today? 2019 has seen no shortage of reports describing the severity of the problem, and I hope the 2020s will be the dawn for innovation and action, which will transform the way we grow, eat, package, and value our food.