Transparency, technology and sustainable development are three crucial factors that can reshape the contours of the food sector in the coming years. In its most recent report, Saveurs 2019, PwC Canada examines the interest of certain food sector players in transparency, sustainable development and technology, along with Canadian consumers’ commitment to sustainability.
Food industry 2.0
New technologies are casting fresh light on how companies maintain consumers’ trust. Initially aimed at improving operational efficiency, these technologies are now used to boost quality control and optimize food traceability, thus enabling stakeholders to reap the full benefits of farm-to-table transparency. In addition to monitoring refrigeration systems while products are being shipped or stored, sensors are now used by farmers in automated greenhouses, as well as on drones to check for crop-damaging insects.
Industry players, meanwhile, are honing their expertise with a view to adding greater value to the data they collect. In the future, emerging technologies such as blockchains will track products throughout the supply chain while tracing food products and prevent data corruption. Data sharing means that standards can be met and problems can be identified upstream; companies can also be more transparent with their clients, thus reinforcing one of the key building blocks of trust. Attesting to the keen interest in data in Canada, a number of firms are seeking to develop smart labels that store detailed information on individual products. Clients can then use their smartphones or computers to search for this information as needed.
In its most recent Consumer Insight report (2019), PwC asked buyers about their willingness to pay more for foods with various sustainability attributes. One finding stands out: consumers’ awareness of their environmental footprint is growing.
Meanwhile, another trend is emerging: 65 per cent of Canadian respondents said they were willing to pay more for locally sourced foods. As regards organic produce, 46 per cent of consumers said they would be willing to pay more, while 40 per cent said they would do so for sustainable packaging. These figures were even higher at the global level, with 66 per cent committed to locally produced food, 54 per cent to organic produce and 44 per cent to sustainable packaging. In addition, slightly more than one-third of consumers (34 per cent in Canada and 38 per cent worldwide) said they were willing to pay more for recognized brands in order to implement sustainable practices.
In light of these findings, a number of companies are taking steps to meet consumer demand – for example, by including social responsibility in their corporate values or by aligning their business objectives with food sustainability criteria.
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