The rise of conscious consumerism

There is probably no issue more complex in the world today than the questions surrounding the future of food production and provision.

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According to official statistics from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, based on calorie counts alone (2 900 calories per day), there are about 800 million hungry people worldwide. But opinions about statistics like these vary widely. It is often argued that a 2 900-calorie per day diet is meaningless if the food consumed is not nutritious.

New research shows that nutritional deprivation around the globe is exponentially greater than the problem of hunger, with up to a quarter of the world’s population suffering from a lack of nutrition.

It is also no secret that the world already produces enough food to meet the needs of all the planet’s inhabitants, but so much of it is wasted along the value chain that millions of people remain undernourished.

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Meanwhile, even in some of the poorest countries, the number of people suffering from diabetes and heart conditions keeps increasing every year.

Central to many of these problems is the fact that the relationship between people and their food has been broken down and people no longer know ‘how’ to eat – often they don’t even know exactly what they are eating.

In response to this, there has been a groundswell of conscious consumer sentiment. For example, according to a recently published TechSci Research report, ‘Global Organic Food Market Forecast & Opportunities, 2020’, the global organic food market is projected to register a compound annual growth rate of over 16% between 2015 to 2020.

Carlo Petrini, founder and president of the International Slow Food Movement, recently visited South Africa to spread the movement’s message that it is possible to reduce both hunger and obesity, while improving the quality of food, the life of farmers, and the impact of agriculture on the environment.

The local farming sector is fast catching on to consumers’ growing demand for healthy food that is produced ethically and sustainably.

This was one of the main topics of discussion at the recent National Red Meat Producers’ Organisation’s annual congress. Red meat producers were told, however, that while consumers are becoming more concerned about the origin of their food and the methods used to produce it, they also care very much about price.

The time of food companies getting away with offering ethically produced, healthy food only to the rich at a high premium, is hopefully coming to an end. The next wave of conscious consumerism is demanding that food like this be accessible to all.