Today many consumers are passionate about their health, and it is none too soon. As a nation, the U.S. has become progressively less healthy, and the food and beverage industry has been a major contributor. From high-fructose corn syrup to highly refined carbohydrates, the U.S. has literally made itself sick. Consumers have woken up, however, and are creating major change in the industry. Food and beverage companies that want to keep growing and serving their customers are listening to their customers.
“Consumers are my salespeople,” Logan Kock, Chief Sustainability Officer at Santa Monica Seafood says when explaining how word of mouth is a big part of how new customers are finding out about Santa Monica Seafood.
“Consumer demands have given us a platform to tell our story and an opportunity to fill a void in the market,” DeBellis says. “Our strategy is to continue to innovate both in product offerings and business practices to raise the bar and continue to provide value to consumers.”
DeBellis notes that the truly innovative market leaders in food and beverage are not just talking sustainability but backing it up with actions by redesigning packaging, pursuing sustainable manufacturing practices, and innovating with new product offerings.
Director of Operations Amelia Winslow makes sure Health-Ade’s policies reflect its consumers’ values.
“Consumers are becoming increasingly savvy, and choosing to buy from companies that share their values,” Winslow says. “We are transparent about our ingredients, our practices and our values — and our product is something consumers want and need. In fact, our founders created this product as consumers who wanted something they could not find.”
Consumers are demanding that food and beverage companies also look at where they are sourcing materials and pushing for the use of raw materials that are certified by a reputable body.
“We are purchasing more coffee beans that are certified because wholesale customers are requesting it, and enduse enduse channels like grocery stores are getting consumer requests for it,” notes Jeff Durbin, Chief Financial Officer at Gavina Coffee.
With another view on coffee, Califia Farms is currently sourcing the coffee for its Ready-to-Drink Cold Brews through Rainforest Alliance Certified™ farms, which means that farmers follow sustainable agricultural practices that protect forests, rivers, soils and wildlife while being good community neighbors. The certification also ensures that workers have just wages and improved access to dignified living conditions, healthcare and education for their children. (See www.rainforest-alliance.org for more information.)
Another area where consumers are increasingly getting involved is in minimizing food and beverage companies’ environmental footprint. Some companies such as Earth Island/Follow Your Heart have become zero-waste, energy positive facilities (or are working to become such) through various techniques, including the use of solar panels. Others work at reducing their footprint by outsourcing operations, such as at Sun Harvest Salt.
“We look for the most efficient ways to ship and store our products,” Chief Executive Officer and Founder Ramona Cappello of Sun Harvest Salt explains. “We max out each truck, which results in no wasted space or excess gas use.
Our competitors often use just-in-time order fulfillment and order by pallet, which reflects how their customers do business, but they spend much more in freight due to inefficient shipping.”
Ultimately, the growth of consumers’ personal values has made the biggest difference. Chris Mann, Chief Executive Officer of Guayakí Sustainable Rainforest Products, Inc., notes that his company is committed to preserving the rainforest and that has led to increased consumer demand.
“Customer demand has driven us to develop new products, then consumers want more — it is a virtuous circle,” Mann expands. “We look at it as Steve Jobs looked at it. Customer research only goes so far — you have to create it and put it out there and explain why customers want it and then it expands. That is disruption.”