Sustainability & Today’s Consumer: What Matters Most?

Sustainability continues to be at the forefront of hot topics within our industry. It’s nearly impossible to go a day or two without news related to our environment. Plastic bottles, bags, and straws continue to garner attention, leading companies to increasingly seek environmentally friendly alternatives. Similarly, a recent poll of US teens found that roughly one in four have taken part in some form of protest to advocate for change in climate policy. The question: what matters most?

This October, we launched an online study of over 400 consumers aged 18 – 54 to better understand what is on their minds when it comes to the planet. Do they care? Are they making lifestyle changes? Or, is it just the media?

Survey results showed that the environment is clearly a concern, but habits often lag intentions. While 56% of consumers expressed concern about the impact of their behaviors on the environment, only 31% admit to changing their daily habits frequently to live more environmentally friendly lifestyles.

Recycling appears to be a top priority, with 52% preferring to do so over buying disposable items. Other food choices that are inherently planet-friendly are a bit slower to gain traction with mainstream consumers. Only 27% of those surveyed indicated that they seek out local and organic products as much as possible, or that they regularly seek out milk alternatives. Similarly, only 25% are attempting to eat less meat and follow a more vegetarian-oriented diet.
As for Millennials, they directionally express more concern for the environment than their elders, but only slightly so. Their food-seeking habits are also on-par with those of their 35 – 54 year-old counterparts.

Our opinion? While planet-friendly diet choices are important to some, they still have a long way to go before becoming the ‘go-to’ choice of the average consumer. Nevertheless, they are an important consideration for menu strategies for the future as these trends will likely continue to become more in demand as familiarity increases.

At KanPak, we continuously monitor our internal practices and work with suppliers to ensure that target goals are set, strived for, and monitored.
Today, we’re working on film packaging variations that deliver significant reductions in the amount of materials used. Last year, we recycled 93% of our waste and have established a goal of 95% for 2019. Additionally, many of our suppliers provide us with bulk totes and plastic pallets that we return to them for re-use, further helping in efforts towards zero waste.
Recently, our parent company, Golden State Foods, appointed Wayne Morgan to the newly created position of President of Sustainability where he will oversee environmental practices for all GSF facilities. Wayne’s team is currently spearheading a company-wide materiality assessment to establish targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This assessment will identify top priorities where we can make a difference in our sustainability programs across the company.