The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in a shift in the way people approach everyday life and the ways they prepare and consume food and beverages, food processing and packaging solutions company Tetra Pak’s latest index report shows.
The report reveals that the pandemic has reinforced the value consumers place on human connections, taking into account both time spent with family at home, and with extended circles outside it, with shared food and beverage experiences playing a key role in these relations.
Tetra Pak Southern Africa marketing director Lebohang Mothobi-Tilo says the Tetra Pak index reveals insights into how South Africans are adjusting their everyday choices to make a positive difference towards a more resilient and sustainable future.
Fundamentally, the report finds that personal, economic and environmental fragility experienced during the global pandemic has created a shift from health-related concerns to active caretaking, and a desire to take action to keep people, their food, communities and the planet secure.
“From the choices they make at home, to which businesses they decide to buy from, the pandemic has reinforced responsible consumption as a key trend, with greater demand for action throughout society,” she says.
Also ranking high on the list of priorities are food safety and security, with the pandemic highlighting health factors, as well as weak points in food systems.
In terms of concerns expressed by consumers, protecting the environment ranked high, with pollution and ocean plastic litter as the joint top worry of 83% of respondents. Global warming closely follows, cited by 78% of consumers across nine countries.
Following these concerns are food waste, a concern for 77% of respondents and food accessibility, as cited by 71% of respondents.
Forty-nine per cent of the global population are concerned about the impact their everyday choices are having on the environment.
The report also finds that because of restrictions in choice over the past 20 months, consumers want to regain control, demanding action to change the status quo.
As such, they are proactively looking for ways to make a difference in their own lives, to improve their own physical and mental wellbeing, such as through dietary choices; and in the environment around them, by recycling more and reducing waste.
For example, 62% of consumers pay more attention to the quality of what they eat and drink, while 54% are disposing of less food now than before the pandemic.
Further, 72% agree they need to act urgently to prevent impacts on future generations.
These actions and demands are resulting in consumers looking to businesses to lead the way and help them stabilise the new habits they form.
As such, 35% are more frequently choosing brands based on their sustainability credentials than before the pandemic, while 50% say being environment-friendly is a top need for food packaging.
Sixty-one per cent expect food and beverage companies to lead the way in finding solutions to environmental and sustainability challenges.
With more time being spent at home, household waste footprints have become more visible, the report finds. To address this, Tetra Pak says consumers are adapting their routines, with 55% of respondents planning meals more carefully to avoid waste, while 46% are making a greater effort to sort materials, such as cartons, glass and plastic properly for recycling.
Half of respondents also report their greater likelihood to recycle more in the next year as part of their personal contribution to tackling climate change.
Responding to consumer’s needs and expectations requires long-term focus and a system-wide collaboration from all stakeholders, says Mothobi-Tilo. “The United Nations has already called the 2020s the ‘decade of action’, emphasising the need to act now.”
In this regard, she says Tetra Pak is “fully committed” to playing its part in addressing consumer needs through its products. “We believe the world’s food systems need to transform to meet the needs of society, improving food security, while reducing the impact on natural resources.”
As such, Mothobi-Tilo says the company is focussing on three key areas – increasing access to safe, nutritious food; reducing food loss and waste; and building more sustainable value chains.
Tetra Pak Southern Africa factory director Waqas Ali explains that Tetra Pak’s R500-million investment to upgrade its Pinetown plant will contribute to boosting the regional and national economy.
“It will increase Tetra Pak’s production capability, allowing it to extend its reach to support more customers; and has the additional benefits of direct and indirect job creation.”