If you want to know where the food industry is going…pay attention to Walmart. Recently, the giant retailer held its second Global Sustainability Milestone meeting to talk about its sustainability efforts. The company pledged to become more sustainable in the global food supply chain by ensuring that the food it sells is:
- More affordable (environmentally, societally and to customers);
- Safer and more transparent;
- Healthier; and
- More accessible.
How exactly will Walmart do this? Moves like using sustainable palm oil in its private label brands; video monitoring systems on pork farms; reducing sodium and sugar in its own brands; and increasing access to organic foods are just a few of the efforts underway.
Predictably, environmental NGO’s, nutrition and food advocates are gnashing their teeth and murmuring that it isn’t enough or that it isn’t trackable. How much Walmart gets done and how fast are far less relevant than what they are asking suppliers for right now.
This is an opportunity for those in the food industry and a stark warning. Consumers are being exposed to more and more messages on sustainability and the middle is moving. Organic is no longer fringe. Animal welfare is no longer fringe. More Americans are getting exposed and involved and as they do, they ask more questions of food suppliers and sellers. At some point in the not too distant future, food sellers will need to have answers for these questions.
Gary Gerdemann has nearly 30 years’ experience helping companies address challenging issues in the marketplace. He has significant experience in the food and beverage industry including work at Pepsi, KFC, Boston Market, Long John Silver’s, IHOP and Einstein Noah Bagel Corp.