Sustainability has been a trendy word in the agrifood sectors for more than a decade, but for much of that time, people didn’t exactly know how to measure sustainability.

Now, people have a clearer picture of what sustainability is, and as a result, more and more consumers are seeking out food products that meet their definition of sustainability, LuAnn Williams, director of insights and innovation, Innova Market Insights, said during the company’s Top Ten Trends for 2020 webinar on November 6.

Williams said Innova Market Insights has considered sustainability a top food trend for about 10 years, but when that word was first being used, it was more of a Wall Street issue.

“I think it’s taken a very long time for people and companies to figure out what are their metrics and what they can do. It’s all about doing better,” said Williams. “Now, we see more and more consumers really do absolutely expect that companies will do the best they can.”

Innova asked consumers if they were concerned about sustainably produced food in 2018, with about 65% saying it was a concern. That number jumped to 87% in 2019.

Food waste and plastic waste

The two biggest sustainability issues on people’s minds today are food waste and plastic packaging waste.

Innova did a recent survey that asked consumers if they would be willing to pay more for products that are devoted to solving those two issues. About half of those surveyed said they would be willing to pay more, with slightly more consumers saying they would be willing to pay more for products from companies dedicated to reducing plastic waste than those who said they’d pay more for products from companies that are tackling food waste. Many more said they would “maybe” pay a premium for products from companies that address those two sustainability issues. People polled live in the U.S., U.K., Spain, France, Brazil, Germany, Mexico and China.

Williams said the responses varied somewhat depending on the survey respondents’ geographic location. It also depended on their ages.

“We know that older consumers care a lot more about food waste, and younger consumers care more about plastic waste,” Williams said.