Marked by a global pandemic, social unrest, political turmoil, natural disasters and a sudden and devastating economic downturn, 2020 has been brutal. And yet, crazy enough, many silver linings have emerged: Giant corporations are now supporting Black Lives Matter. Brands big and small have pulled ad dollars from Facebook to take a stand against disinformation and hate. Mental health and self-care are finally receiving the attention they deserve.
Clearly, the awful events of 2020 have forced a reckoning for businesses and individuals alike. Perhaps now more than ever, they’ve been compelled to examine their values and figure out exactly who and what they stand for. They’ve also been ignited into action, knowing that to change the trajectory of inequality, racism, food insecurity or any other issue they hold dear, they can no longer sit idle—they must do their part.
This is especially evident when it comes to climate change. Of course, plenty of mission-driven food brands and farmers have been working hard to mitigate its disastrous effects for years, even decades, now. Similarly, millions of consumers have long voted with their dollars by buying local, organic and otherwise sustainable foods. But overall, industry and consumer commitments to step up and truly help protect the planet had not yet reached critical mass.
This year, it seems, the tide may finally be turning. After facing devastating droughts, floods, hurricanes and wildfires in recent years—all linked to climate change—and seeing 2020 bring more of the same, food companies and consumers are thinking about sustainability like never before. And realizing extreme weather’s significant impacts on the food supply, they’re thinking about sustainability specifically through the lens of food.
In fact, extreme weather aside, market research shows COVID-19 alone has accelerated several food sustainability trends. Now having experienced empty grocery store shelves, which exposed the fragility of food supply chains, consumers, many for the first time, are looking at the food system big picture. They want to know where their food comes from, trust that brands stand by their eco-promises and support farmers who produce food sustainably.
For producers committed to reducing their carbon footprint and helping to buffer the effects of climate change, these shifts are incredibly exciting. The fact that there is real market value for food produced with less impact on the planet—and so much potential for growth—opens up big doors for smaller, scaling companies and food and farm entrepreneurs for whom sustainability is a main mission.
But beyond just seizing upon consumer interest, innovative food and ag businesses are actually creating new economic opportunities around combatting climate change and its effects. Take Atlantic Sea Farms, a company Tera mentors that will present at Edible-Alpha® Live! on December 9. They are developing a market for nutrient-dense U.S.-grown kelp, a highly sustainable crop that absorbs carbon from the ocean, thereby lowering the acidity and improving aquatic ecosystems. Plus, by paying lobster fishermen fair wages to plant kelp in the off-season, Atlantic Sea Farms is also boosting the local economy.
Other farmers and food companies FFI works with also doing really cool things to build markets around mitigating climate change. Joining our virtual huddles is a great way to learn what other impact brands are doing, get inspired for new business opportunities and make connections to help make them a reality—so is joining us for Edible-Alpha® Live!
This year has not been pretty, but it has certainly inspired change—in consumers, in companies, in markets, in missions. Let’s work together to harness this energy and build thriving food businesses that are sustainable both financially and environmentally.
And now, our roundup of the best food and beverage finance news, events and resources from around the web…
Business Model Insights
- Tackling 4 common challenges faced by executives at scaling companies (FoodNavigator-USA) Hiring an experienced executive can help growing companies avoid common pitfalls, but they aren’t a panacea. Founders should brace for challenges, especially in the first few years as the new leadership team gels.
- How mission-based businesses are driving innovation (New Hope Network)
- Exclusivity in Contract Manufacturing Agreements (Food Industry Executive)
- How Project Potluck plans to help diversify the CPG industry (Food Dive) BIPOC underrepresentation in CPG industry prompted the launch of this new organization that aims inherent bias in hiring, networking gaps and lack of access to capital for diverse founders.
- Investments in grocery CPG, food delivery increase despite lingering economic uncertainty (FoodNavigator-USA)
- How to nail a virtual pitch (New Hope Network)
- Is a slimmed down grocery selection spurred by the pandemic here to stay? (FoodNavigator-USA) Panic buying is mostly over, yet SKU selection remains much smaller than pre-pandemic. Is this narrowed assortment the new normal and what does that mean for industry?
- Coronavirus accelerates importance of packaging for consumers (Food Dive)
- Walmart unveils airport-inspired store design and layout enabling digital omnichannel customer journey (FoodNavigator-USA)
- The virus that stole Christmas (and the rest of the holidays too) (New Hope Network) “Home for the holidays” means something different in 2020, and home-bound families are still figuring out how they will celebrate—leaving retailers and brands unsure how to plan.
- Food prices outpace inflation but show signs of easing (Grocery Dive)
- Consumer Survey: Trends, Habits and Attitudes Related to Food Safety (Food Insight)
- What’s at stake when Cargill says it’ll help farmers adopt regenerative agriculture practices? (The Counter) Switching up farming practices is costly and risky, making many conventional commodity farmers resistant to trying regenerative strategies. How can regenerative agriculture become more accessible?
- National farm groups push for increased Black land ownership (The Counter)
- Federal funding barrier: Billions more for farmers (Fern’s Ag Insider)
- Bay Area-based Virtual Kitchen raises $20M (Restaurant Dive) While the ghost and virtual kitchen space was growing pre-pandemic, it has accelerated this year, with more food brands and restaurants embracing this strategy. Virtual Kitchen will likely use its new capital infusion to expand into more markets.
- Commercialization Leaders Form Turnkey Beverage Solution Company IncuBev (BevNET)
- Acquisition of 151 Research enables AGCO to create new tech solutions for grain customers (Successful Farming)
- Edible-Alpha® Consultant Huddle: 10/12 at 1 p.m. CDT (Read 9/28 huddle notes here)
- Edible-Alpha® Entrepreneur Huddle: 10/12 at 2:30 p.m. CDT (Read 9/28 huddle notes here)
- Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit: 10/13–10/15
- Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo: 10/17–10/20
- Food Safety Summit: 10/19–10/22
- Food Edge: 10/21–10/23
- Spark Change Organic & Regenerative Agriculture Community Event: 10/28
- Edible-Alpha®: Building a Valuable Food Brand: 10/29
- PACK EXPO Connects: 11/9–11/13
- Edible-Alpha® Scaler Series: Financial & Accounting Processes Workshop: 11/10
- Spark Celebration: 11/10–11/11
- Digital Food & Beverage Connect Virtual Event:11/16 –11/17
- Edible-Alpha® Live!: 12/9
- Edible-Alpha® Scaler Series: Sales & Distribution Planning Workshop: 12/10