How can food and drink companies right past wrongs?

category - strategy
sector - food & drink
type - features
Unchecked expansion and commodification have led to a perilously fragile food and drink eco-system that threatens our fundamental relationship with nutrition. Louise French, strategy director at The Future Laboratory, presents the key strategic take-outs from our Redemptive Diets macrotrend

We recently shared our latest food and drink sector macrotrend, Redemptive Diets, which examines a positive reaction to a snowballing consumption crisis.

With global material resource use expected to more than double by 2050 and high-income countries now consuming 10 times more than low-income countries, we are facing the stark reality that we will need the equivalent of 1.7 Earths to maintain current levels of consumption (sources: UN, Friends of the Earth, Footprint Network). Redemptive Diets describes the tangible effects of this statistic on our food systems, also under threat from unstable global macroforces such as climate change and political disruption. Functional issues such as water scarcity – the UN predicts that the global demand for fresh water will exceed supply by 40% in 2030 – have been slow burning for decades but are now reaching a tipping point. At the same time, we are seeing societal demand for better, fairer systems, not only for the planet, but also for the people and communities that are its custodians. This onus of responsibility has historically been on the shoulders of consumers, but is now being demanded from businesses to adapt their production to facilitate better consumption.

It’s tempting to assume that we simply took a wrong turn somewhere in the past, using technological progress to win a race to the bottom for cost and convenience, and that the solution lies in a return to simpler times. Instead, as the outlook for many of our most relied on and favoured items becomes increasingly uncertain, we must take a more progressive and innovative approach, reframing the role of science and technology across the whole value chain to develop long-term sustainable and universally beneficial solutions that allow us to pre-emptively problem-solve.

Equally, from a societal standpoint, it’s time for the privileged to take a stand against systemic inequalities they have actively exploited or obliviously supported for personal gain. Influential brands and businesses can use their position to disrupt and dismantle exploitative and unfair systems, which have developed from food being treated as a capitalist commodity rather than a common resource.

Consumers are already aware of the negative impacts of careless consumption, but they need businesses to entirely rethink entrenched approaches to enable them to truly change. This is a precious opportunity to create a new blueprint for nourishment, accessibility and enjoyment of food by prioritising innovation to recalibrate entire industrial eco-systems, investing in long-term resilience and taking accountability for past unethical practice.

Published by:

18 November 2021

Author: Louise French

Image: Food is Power by Skyhigh Farm in collaboration with Playground Coffee Shop and Quil Lemons


A Visual Encyclopaedia of Indian Food by Priya Mani, Copenhagen

Key thought-starters for food and drink brands and businesses:

Emphasise positive impact
From carbon footprints to cultural appropriation, consumers are more conscious than ever of their environmental and social impact. As consumers demand that their consumption choices do no harm, how can brands and business ensure they’re giving back more than they take?

Prepare for changing tastes
Whether it is crops ruined by wildfire smoke or consumer rejection based on past business practices, it’s harder than ever to predict and plan for success. As historical supply and demand can no longer be relied on, how can brands make it easier for themselves to adapt?

Take responsibility for food fairness
Food is treated as a commodity in today’s industrial food system, rather than a basic human right. What role can brands play in creating fairer food systems for people and planet, and in providing solutions that reduce systemic inequalities?

Designed to repair and protect against negative environmental and social impact, these are the foundations for new systems that can fundamentally change what we eat, how we eat and who with, for the better.


Our team of strategists have developed a wide-ranging set of strategic decision-making tools to help provide future-first solutions for our clients. If you would like to discuss how our Redemptive Diets macrotrend could support future planning for your brand, or if you have any questions about embedding our macrotrends into your business, send us a message at We look forward to accelerating into the future with you.

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