Sustainability at the forefront for the sugar industry
VAIL, COLO. – Sustainability, front-of-package labeling and other consumer issues are or will be front and center for the sugar industry, said speakers at the 37th International Sweeteners Symposium on August 2.
Sustainability “wasn’t on the table” when the 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans were completed, said Courtney Gaine, PhD, president and CEO of the Sugar Association, but “the dialogue is growing stronger” for include sustainability as part of the 2025 Guidelines. She noted that the definition of what constitutes a sustainable diet is unclear.
“It’s not as simple as carbon emissions,” she said.
Dr Gaine said the sugar industry received a “summer treat” when the World Health Organisation, in recently published draft guidelines, did not recommend sugar-free sweeteners as a way to control weight.
She also said she expects front-of-package labeling for sugars and other ingredients to gain momentum as the United States is sandwiched between Mexico, which Front-of-package “warning” labels have been required for some time, and Canada, which recently announced such labeling. Front-of-package labeling can be a “low hanging fruit” for regulators, including the possibility of recommendations from the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health tentatively scheduled for September .
Jack Bobo, director of global food and water policy for The Nature Conservancy, noted several consumer behavior trends that could affect sugar, including sustainability, which he says is a trend , not a fashion, which matters to consumers, matters to the environment. but should also matter to the “end result”.
“Sustainability should also be a good business decision,” Bobo said.
Mr. Bobo noted improvements in greenhouse gas reductions, less energy consumption, less erosion, less water use and other gains in sustainable agricultural production over the years. years, while over 800 million people continue to go hungry, leading some to argue that the food system is broken.
“Things are going well and improving, but not fast enough,” Mr Bobo said.
Consumers tend to think about sustainability at the local level, which can sometimes have negative effects on a broader or global level, or see only the current situation rather than the past situation, Bobo said.
“Local sustainability can be a global catastrophe,” he said, noting there were trade-offs.
“Consumers have never cared more or known less about how their food is produced,” Bobo said.
Bobo also noted consumer preferences for transparency, traceability and other trends, including obesity rates. He noted shifts towards healthier diets as obesity rates rise.
“People have never known more about food and have never been so obese,” he said.
Transparency today is where food safety was 100 years ago, he said, suggesting that at some point consumers will “assume transparency”.
He encouraged food producers and manufacturers to “stop saying what you do and why you do it”.
“Personalize your story,” Mr. Bobo said. “Acknowledge people’s concerns, connect with individuals, and then build trust. Then science can count.
Science must come after trust, not before, he said.
“People like to learn things; they don’t like to be told things,” he said.