The ethical food movement: a bubble that won't burst

What you eat and drink matters. But it’s where it comes from that matters even more.
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The health and wellness food industry has been flying high for a handful of years now. Already worth more than $760 billion globally, it’s set to continue growing at a rate of 5% each year until 2027, according to a new report from insights store Research and Markets.

A few factors are playing into this. Consumer behaviours were already changing before the pandemic. Since then, even more people are discovering new motivations for optimising their health through what they eat. The major ingredients supplier Beneo says that 75% of shoppers globally are looking for healthier food and drink as a direct result of the virus.

Google Trends data backs this up. Global searches for the combined terms ‘food’ and ‘immune system’ rocketed by more than 600% in various months last year. In China especially, according to Mintel, having a strong immune system has become the top health concern. According to a 2019 survey by market research firm Agility Research & Strategy, even before the pandemic hit, living a healthy lifestyle ranked higher than finding love or achieving financial success as the most important priority for young adult Chinese consumers. In fact, it was their number one goal. And 76% said they place more emphasis on wellness than their parents do.

Food brands that claim to boost your immunity have also seen particularly lively growth. The UK-based vitamin drinks company Tonic Health, for example, and Singapore’s ‘functional beverage’ producer Nutrixin said they have had to expand much faster than expected to meet demand.

Navigating the vast better-for-you food space can feel like a minefield of buzzwords, baseless claims and impenetrable statistics. Some shoppers are meticulous in their quest to find out what their food contains. Around 60% of German consumers use the internet to research edible products and their origins, says a German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture report from 2019.

The next iteration of the ethical food movement is likely to revolve around greater clarity about the production chain. New technologies are helping deliver this. Supermarket franchises Albert Heijn, Carrefour and Walmart have all been experimenting with blockchain to improve the traceability and transparency of their food supply processes, while climate action apps such as Almond and Joro enable consumers to see clearly the carbon footprint of their groceries. 

Aggregated marketplaces like The Green Hub and Bubble are taking the work out of the endless search and scan. With food and drink discovery moving online as a result of the pandemic, it’s becoming easier than ever to find foods that fit your definition of ‘better’.

Three innovative food brands

Bubble recently launched an annual list of food and drink products it ranks the best and most innovative. Here are this year’s top three.

1. JOYÀ. A mixture of (legal) herb and mushroom powders you blend in with your lattes, smoothies, breakfast items, snacks and more that are stress-relieving and immune-boosting.

2. Kaleidoscope Foods. The US brand combines two of the most nutritious foods, kale and bone broth, to create savoury crisps. It also makes a similar kale chip with fresh, sprouted and fermented ingredients in flavours like lemon ginger miso and heirloom basil pesto. 

3. Bohana. Popped water lily seeds have been an Ayurvedic superfood for centuries. These are gluten-, grain- and corn-free, packed with antioxidants and amino acids and come in flavours from cheesy to sea salt chocolate drizzle.

This article was first published in Courier issue 40, April/May 2021. To purchase the issue or become a subscriber, head to our webshop.

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