This year’s National Nutrition Month theme, Savor the Flavor of Eating Right, reminds us that eating well is about way more than, well, simply eating well. It is about turning healthful meals into an experience, and about the many steps that lead to a balanced, healthful plate to create that experience. It is a journey that begins long before food makes it to our markets and eventually our plate.
Sharing that journey with consumers has become a significant part of the transparency that manufacturers are seeking to provide. It has shifted from a “nice thing to do” to a necessary step that food companies must take if they want to stand out in a saturated market and maintain the trust of their consumers. Once reserved just for natural and organic or small batch products, today major food manufactures are communicating their message of sustainability to a public that wants to know and may make purchasing decisions based on how a company approaches environmental responsibility.
We know that food trends and nutrition guidance collide to create the need for certain ingredients. This National Nutrition Month, as we “Savor the Flavor of Eating Right,” let’s take a moment to see how companies are balancing that need with corporate responsibility and environmental sustainability.
Palm Fruit Oil
Tropical fats like palm fruit have taken center stage as Trans fats have been removed from our food, which has led to a conversation about how we can sustainably produce this oil without having a negative impact on the environment. Food companies recognize the need to source palm oil without deforestation or other negative impacts on the environment and have taken steps to source palm oil responsibly.
Fish and Seafood
Protecting our waters is a top priority and promoting sustainable fishery and aquaculture practices has been encouraged by the Food and Marketing Institute. Seafood companies recognize that consumers want traceability when it comes to seafood and want to know the journey their fish and seafood have gone on before making it to the dinner plate. Not only does this mean that seafood needs to be harvested in a more sustainable way, it also has an impact on the types of fish and seafood that take center stage in the fish market, in recipes for the home chef and on restaurant menus.
Using Cover Crops
Cover crops are plants that are grown to encourage healthy soil, less need for chemicals and a better growing season. More and more farmers are taking advantage of the benefits of cover crops, which allow for a better yield among other benefits and the food industry is supporting them. Major food companies like General Mills and Unilever are partnering with farmers growing cover crops to reduce water use and produce grain using fewer chemicals.
Sourcing Materials Responsibly
From the spices and other flavoring they use to the materials they select to package their products, companies are proud to highlight the steps they are taking to be globally responsible. A few that highlight their sustainability programs are General Mills, Unilever, Nestle and Frontier Co-op among others.