Consumers have significant influence over manufacturers and farmers. Pressure is growing as prosumers, a new type of buyer, demand more sustainable food options.
Businesses are attempting to meet modern standards while keeping up with production. How will these eco-friendly initiatives change the food sustainability landscape?
What Are Prosumers?
The idea of the prosumer originated from Alvin Toffler’s book, “The Third Wave”. First published in 1980, it’s about the evolution of the Industrial Age society to the Information Age one. Toffler’s idea comes from the combination of a consumer and a producer. He prophesied that, in the future, consumers would have an active role in customising the products produced for the masses.
Alvin was correct in the sense that people have a significant impact on mass production. Clothing companies, car manufacturers and a plethora of other industries allow customers to personalise products to their liking.
Yet today’s prosumers are changing industries, especially food production. They’re making a colossal impact that’s impossible to ignore with their purchasing power and social media influence.
What Do Prosumers Want?
Generation Z and Millennials have the most leverage when it comes to getting manufacturers to listen. They also happen to be some of the most driven to protect the earth. Many of them base daily choices, including what to eat, on their desire to protect the environment.
According to one survey, 88% of consumers claim they like brands that help them be more eco-friendly and ethical in daily life.
The emphasis on food products touted as healthy, local and organic has gone by the wayside. Now, influential prosumers ensure their meals come from a sustainable source. This food requires the efficient use of all resources, including renewables and recyclables. It also focuses on low to no emissions of greenhouse gases.
How Can Farmers and Food Manufacturers Respond?
Farmers and food manufacturers can make the changes necessary to produce a sustainable operation, though it will take a considerable investment of money, time and hard work.
To start, they must consider why changes are necessary. It’s essential to understand why prosumers’ habits are shifting. The key is to research climate change, industry’s impact and what it means for the future of the planet.
Most businesses create massive amounts of waste. Luckily, small modifications can reduce output. Manufacturers can use recycled and recovered products to minimise environmental impact. They can also remove plastic from the packaging process and replace it with corrugated bubble wrap or organic fabric.
If manufacturers use fossil fuels, they can reduce emissions and save money by switching to renewables. Solar panels, wind turbines and geothermal pumps are all excellent options. For many corporations that make the switch, the government offers tax credits. Plus, a transition to green energy shows consumers your commitment to the planet.
Prosumers are more likely to buy from brands they view as trustworthy. To build trust, you’ll need to be transparent. Don’t try to hide processes that aren’t 100% sustainable. Rather, explain how you plan to improve. Don’t be afraid to discuss challenges standing in the way.
Manufacturers will need to work closely with farmers to fully understand the entire food process. With this information, they can implement practical changes and predict how eco-friendly initiatives will affect the bottom line.
Long-term, if both farmers and manufacturers are diligent with improvements, they can achieve success through prosumers.
Jenna Tsui is an environmental and tech journalist who co-owns The Byte Beat blog. She writes about the latest news in sustainability, disruptive tech, environmental science and more. Check out her work on TBB or follow her on Twitter @jenna_tsui