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Food Foundation urges UK supermarkets to take action on plant-based reporting

2021-10-21 FoodIngredientsFirst 

Tag: UK Supermarkets Food Foundation plant-based reporting


A new report from The Food Foundation highlights the urgent need for food businesses to transparently report on health and sustainability metrics. 

The “Plating Up Progress” report shows more supermarkets are setting targets for and disclosing sales-based data of healthy food. Currently, five out of 11 supermarkets have sales targets for healthy or healthier food, compared to two this time last year.


A system in crisis?
“Our food system is in crisis and is in desperate need of change to ensure that the industry is doing its part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and work toward the UK’s net-zero targets,” says Anna Taylor, executive director, The Food Foundation.

International events such as COP26 and the Nutrition for Growth summit present an opportunity for industry to develop new global commitments. Yet, she explains that The Food Foundation is increasingly concerned about the stark differences in regular and transparent reporting on sustainability metrics.  

“We need all food businesses to start setting targets that evidence the transition of their businesses to healthier and more sustainable food sales. However, the food industry issues are too wide-ranging and complex for individual companies to solve in isolation,” asserts Taylor. 

“That is why we need the government and investors to help drive this change toward regular and accurate reporting, to help food businesses and retailers shift to healthier, more sustainable practices.”

Supermarkets and out-of-home food businesses must take urgent action to report on plant-based foods, urges a new report from The Food Foundation.However, despite this progress regarding healthy food, supermarkets are lagging on the actions urgently needed for the UK to meet its net-zero targets, The Food Foundation’s report states. 

only two of the 11 major UK supermarkets report on the percentage of their protein sales from animal versus plant-based sources, including meat alternatives and vegetables. 

Protein sales shift
Meanwhile, just one supermarket has a target to increase sales of plant-based proteins, and none have targets to shift sales away from animal sources of protein. This shift in protein sales will be “vital” for the UK to move to a net-zero carbon economy and hit targets for drastically reduced greenhouse gas emissions, flags the report.

In the out-of-home sector, the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed down progress within the restaurant and catering sectors compared to supermarkets. 

Of the 18 major UK-operating caterers, quick service and casual dining restaurant chains, only five have targets for the percentage of menus to be plant-based or meat-free. In contrast, one has a public target for the percentage of menus or products to be quantifiably healthy. 

The report shows that all supermarkets and 13 out of 18 restaurants, caterers and wholesalers, now either have net-zero climate change targets that include Scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions or have started – or committed to start – measuring these. 

However, few are reporting on Scope 3 emissions. The lack of companies setting targets to shift their protein sales from animal-based to plant-based suggests that the implementation plans for Scope 3 have not yet been fully developed.

The Food Foundation warns that COP26 and Nutrition for Growth are currently ignoring the urgent need to transform a failing food system to help reverse climate change.Recommendations to government, businesses and investors
In response to these findings, The Food Foundation has issued a series of recommendations to government, businesses and investors to forge a consensus on metrics and reporting mechanisms that allows the food industry to make progress in transitioning to sustainable and healthy diets. 

For the government:

  • Ensure that the National Food Strategy recommendation for mandatory reporting on healthy and sustainable food sales goes into legislation.
  • Ensure the development of a database of environmental impacts to facilitate better reporting from food businesses on Scope 3 emissions and biodiversity impacts.

For food businesses:

  • Actively support the government’s adoption of the National Food Strategy recommendation for mandatory reporting on healthy and sustainable food sales to ensure that they are practicable and appropriate for the sectors.
  • Actively engage in industry collaborations to agree on industry protocols for reporting on crucial environmental issues wher progress is “sorely” needed, such as Scope 3 emissions, sustainable water use and biodiversity impacts.

For investors:

  • Engage collectively with the government and food businesses in support of recommendations for mandatory food industry reporting of healthy and sustainable food sales.
  • Use the questions provided in this Food Foundation report, engage with portfolios to put greater expectations on food businesses to disclose and set targets on material issues for health, environment and social justice across their supply chain and sales.

“Driving change toward a healthy, sustainable food system should be a key concern for the investment community. If left unmanaged, the impact of the current food system on public health and the environment could pose systemic risks for the economy, society and investors,” adds Kate Elliot, head of ethical, sustainable and impact research at Rathbone Greenbank Investments.

“As consumer attitudes change, demand for companies that can provide a healthier, more sustainable alternative to the current food system is increasing, bringing with it a host of exciting new investment opportunities.”

Elliot further states that companies can recognize and respond to this by introducing new plant-based product lines or reformulating existing products to be healthier.


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