Sustainability Trends for the Food Industry to Watch in 2022

Sustainability trends have been making foodservice headlines this year, but you may be wondering how businesses have taken action. Three prominent trends are encouraging foodservice companies to offset their carbon footprints: customer sentiment, legislation, and brand commitments. Research indicates that when taste and price are about equal, modern consumers favor sustainable food brands and purchase them daily. Governmental drivers this past year include plastic bag legislation in some states such as New Jersey and Massachusetts, as well as climate risk disclosure requirements for businesses in certain states and cities. Between consumer sentiments and legislative pressure, 2022 marks the year for foodservice businesses to take sustainability seriously. 

Several QSRs have committed to sustainability goals. For example, KFC donates surplus food to food banks across the US in order to curb food waste and counteract food shortages among relief agencies. Wendy’s has pledged to shift to recyclable plastic cups in 2022, an initiative that’s estimated to “divert 10 million pounds of waste from landfills over the first two years” (QSR Panera has set a 2025 goal to transition to 100% circular, reusable, and compostable packaging and use renewable energy for at least 50% of its locations. 

Now, it’s your turn to join the movement! Squadle & Good Start Packaging have outlined sustainability trends to watch in 2022 below and in this downloadable e-book. We hope this guide helps to set green goals in the New Year!

How Digital Food Safety Curbs Waste 

The food industry has historically used pen and paper for logging food safety information, such as temperature monitoring. However, foodservice is experiencing a digital revolution – helping to automate food storage, prep, and serving while encouraging compliance and data transparency. This system is called “digital food safety,” or the automation and digitization of food safety tasks from traditional and manual practices. Digital software also helps to reduce your business’s environmental footprint by minimizing paper consumption or replacing paper logs with digital records. 

With workflow automation tools like Squadle’s digital checklists, shift management, and bluetooth temperature monitoring, your business can cut down on paper in a number of ways. To learn more about digital food safety, see Squadle’s Ultimate Guide to Digital Food Safety.

Digital food safety and compostable packaging image
How Compostable Packing Alternatives are Saving the Environment from Plastic Waste 

Almost all of the food we purchase to eat at home or on the go comes packaged. Whether it’s from a restaurant, coffee shop, meal delivery service, or even a local farm, it’s hard to find food that isn’t in packaging. 

Most packaging used today is made from plastic, but we’re seeing a movement of operators adopting sustainable alternatives. Compostable food packaging is made from renewable plant-based materials like corn, wheat, fiber, and sugarcane. It uses fewer resources and produces less pollution to manufacture versus plastic alternatives and makes use of agricultural byproducts reducing waste and supporting farmers. 

Using compostables sends a powerful signal to the market and your customers that you care about your environmental footprint. Be a steward in your community and push for more sustainable solutions. Today, California and North Carolina lead the way in offering access to commercial composting with infrastructure development likely to increase in importance.

How Mobile Food Waste Apps are Combating Climate Change

Food waste is a large contributor to environmental harm, such as global warming. Specifically, one third of all food produced in the world goes to waste, which is equivalent to 1.3 billion tons of fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy, seafood, and grains. New mobile applications such as Too Good To Go, Food For All and Your Local help to reduce food waste. These apps redistribute food that would otherwise end up in landfills onto people’s plates. 

The process for customers is simple. Customers download the app, create an account, and pick up a surprise bag of goodies for a fraction of the price at the end of the day. Customers are raving about the affordable prices across social media platforms such as TikTok and Twitter.

Too Good to Go launched in Europe. Due to its great success, they have recently expanded to NYC and plan to extend nationwide. Over 250 well loved NYC cafes, bakeries, grocery stores, and food stores like Breads Bakery, Black Seed Bagels, Stumptown Coffee, and Tartinery have all partnered with Too Good To Go within the first month. In this same timeframe, 15,000 customers have signed up for the app, proving that folks are actively making conscious decisions to help save their planet.

How Ghost Kitchens are Inherently more Sustainable than Traditional Food Retail 

Customers are demonstrating a rapid increase in ordering out– whether it’s takeout or delivery. A recent study by Motus reports that food delivery services have surged 164% over the last year, with 25% more Americans using food delivery apps. In order for businesses to stay relevant, they are adapting to customer behaviors by installing self-service kiosks, using third party delivery services such as DoorDash, Toast, and Uber-Eats, assigning specific curbside pick-up parking spots and designing more efficient drive-thrus that accommodate pick up and delivery services. In addition to these adaptations, businesses are also building ghost kitchens. 

Ghost kitchens are production units purpose-built to manage online orders and produce food specifically for delivery. Overheads are generally lower as there is no front-of-house staff or dining area, and the ghost kitchens are often located in more affordable locations away from high-cost areas. Ghost kitchens are generally optimized to maximize efficiency. Aside from the cost effective benefits of ghost kitchens, they are inherently more sustainable than traditional QSR store fronts. According to NCR, “Ghost kitchens are inherently smaller and thus have a smaller environmental footprint than a full-blown customer-facing concept. Removing front-of-house operations (e.g., fewer dishes to wash, fewer plastic straws) naturally increases sustainability”. Ghost kitchens appeal to the growing pool of eco-conscious consumers who are ordering to-go options more frequently. 

If your business is considering starting a ghost kitchen, read more about a ghost kitchen’s 5 Food Safety Rules that are Non-Negotiable.

Sustainability made Easy! 

From compostable packaging to ghost kitchens and digital checklists, we hope you’ve found one or two sustainable tools to kickstart your QSR, grocery, or c-store in the New Year. Whether you’re taking a small or large step towards a greener future for your business, every effort counts! If you’d like to learn more about sustainability trends to watch in 2022, read this companion article highlighting additional trends on Good Start’s website. Please find a (free) downloadable infographic below, highlighting all 6 trends from both blog articles, which you can share with your team as a foodservice sustainability guide.