Tetra Pak research study reveals food safety-environment dilemma fostered by COVID-19

Food safety is a major issue for society, according to more two-thirds of the respondents.

Tetra Pak has unveiled findings from its global research study, in partnership with Ipsos, showing that food safety is a major issue for society. The same number of respondents believe that the COVID-19 is a “real threat”. At the same time, concern for the environment remains “strikingly powerful”, pointing towards a dilemma in the consumers’ minds as they attempt to balance the critical priorities of human existence through safe food and sustainability of the planet.

The Tetra Pak Index, in its 13th edition, has seen a 10% increase in global concern about food safety and future food supplies, now at 40%, compared to 30% from 2019. In addition, more than 50% of consumers not only believe that improving food safety is the responsibility of manufacturers, they see it as the top issue that companies need to address now and in the future.

According to this year’s research, health is deeply connected to heightened issues of food safety and hygiene, with two-thirds of consumers indicating that being healthy is being safe, and 60% of consumers globally stating they worry about the food they purchase being hygienic and safe.

When asked what is key for them in a package, consumers indicate that ensuring food safety is its main purpose. They also express concerns about environmental innovations in packaging impacting food safety, even though the majority of respondents indicate “using sustainable packaging” as one of the top issues food and beverage brands need to address.

Adolfo Orive, president and CEO for Tetra Pak, commented: “Working closely with our customers and stakeholders, we are already on a journey to create the ultimate sustainable food package – a carton package that is made solely from responsibly sourced renewable or recycled materials, is fully recyclable and carbon-neutral, allowing ambient distribution and meeting food safety requirements. We see this as a critical step in building a sustainable future for the next generation, especially in the aftermath of COVID-19.”

The Tetra Pak Index 2020 also highlighted how food waste is rising up the agenda, and this is now seen as a concern by more than three-quarters of respondents. The impact of COVID-19 on supply chains has accelerated awareness of food waste as a pressing issue. There is a likelihood that this sentiment will grow going forward, as the world strives to feed its growing population. Consumers cite food waste reduction as both the top environmental issue they can influence themselves, and one of the top three priorities for manufacturers. But confusing labelling is a barrier, offering brands a chance for better communication.

Dan Esty, HillHouse Professor at Yale University, concluded: “With a growing population set to require up to 70% more food by 2050, at a time when biodiversity, climate change and food security are becoming ever more pressing, there is an urgent need for change. Bold initiatives such as those taken by Tetra Pak to rethink future food packaging are therefore the need of the hour.”