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How growing consumer consciousness is impacting the food industry

Kees Jacobs
Jun 14, 2024

In the first installment of our food ecosystem insights, we explore how evolving consumer expectations around sustainability place new demands on food players – and present new opportunities.

Across industry sectors, sustainability is no longer a ‘nice-to-have.’ It’s a core value shaping consumer behavior, as we explore in our ReThink whitepaper, Food for thought: How can collaboration and technology drive a more sustainable food ecosystem?

This shift is especially evident in the food industry, where a growing consciousness about food waste and environmental impact is reshaping the entire value chain. In 2023, 69% of consumers surveyed said they were conscious of the issue of food waste, with the clear majority acknowledging both its environmental impact and the role individual choices can play in solving it.

Consumer expectations are evolving: how can the food industry adapt?

Today’s consumers are demanding ever-greater transparency. They want to know where their food comes from, what sustainability efforts retailers and farmers are making, and the environmental impact of their choices. However, as 52% of consumers also report, there’s often insufficient detail available to verify producers’ sustainability claims. This lack of information impedes informed decision-making and undermines trust.

Food players can bridge this gap by leveraging data to provide more comprehensive product insights. With visibility of products at every stage, suppliers, distributors, and retailers can be more transparent with consumers. Providing product information in a clear and easily accessible fashion can go a long way towards establishing credibility in consumers’ eyes. Yet, the industry needs to address a paradox: everybody wants transparency, but nobody wants to be transparent. The good news is that there are new technologies that enable data collaboration without confidential data sharing.

Balancing sustainability with affordability

While consumers are increasingly prioritizing sustainability, price remains a major consideration. In 2023, only 40% of consumers reported paying 5-10% more for sustainable products. The challenge for retailers is to make sustainable products accessible and affordable for everyone. This involves collaborating with suppliers, optimizing supply chains, and investing in innovative solutions to reduce costs without compromising quality or sustainability.

Shaping consumption habits for a sustainable future

The good news is that consumers are open to guidance. In fact, 63% want brands to play an active role in educating them about sustainable products. This presents a golden opportunity for food players to drive change in consumption habits and foster brand loyalty.

Retailers can incentivize sustainable choices by offering rewards for trying alternative products or focusing promotional offers on options with a lower carbon footprint. Gamifying the process by setting challenges, such as reducing food waste or choosing local produce, can also be an effective method of raising awareness and encouraging behavior change.

Reducing food waste: a two-way street

Increasing consumer consciousness about waste and sustainability issues presents both a challenge and an opportunity for the food industry. Consumers want to make more informed, more sustainable food choices – and they expect retailers to help them. By proactively stepping up to meet these evolving expectations, food industry players can build consumer trust and loyalty by making sustainable products and business practices a key pillar of their strategy.

Capgemini delves further into the challenges and opportunities for the food industry in our latest ReThink whitepaper, Food for Thought: How can collaboration and technology drive a more sustainable food ecosystem? We would like to thank all contributors & our partner, Microsoft, for facilitating and jointly developing this whitepaper.

Food for thought

How can collaboration and technology drive more sustainable food ecosystem

Find out more about Capgemini’s food waste offer for retailers and contact us to get started.

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Kees Jacobs

Consumer Products & Retail Global Insights & Data Lead, Capgemini
Kees is Capgemini’s overall Global Consumer Products and Retail sector thought leader. He has more than 25 years’ experience in this industry, with a track record in a range of strategic digital and data-related B2C and B2B initiatives at leading retailers and manufacturers. Kees is also responsible for Capgemini’s strategic relationship with The Consumer Goods Forum and a co-author of many thought leadership reports, including Reducing Consumer Food Waste in the Digital Era.