Insights2020 TrendsRise of the mindful and politically active consumer

Rise of the mindful and politically active consumer

The War on Waste, climate change, global food shortages, rise of Gen Z and ‘the Greta effect’ are all contributing factors in the growing sense of urgency for social, environmental and political change. And the implications for FMCG companies are massive.

According to Mintel Food & Drink Associate Director, Jenny Zegler, consumers are hungry for leadership and will reward companies that take action and improve the health of people, plant and address important societal issues.

“The companies that will win in the next 10 years will be those that fuel the new era of conscious consumption. Tomorrow’s conscious consumers will be looking for eco-friendly packaging and products while also seeking guidance on how to make their diets more sustainable,” she says.

One great example is Unilever’s sustainable living brands, which have grown 50 per cent faster than the company as a whole in recent years, according to Food Navigator.

Yet just as consumers are rewarding companies aligned with their values, they can punish as well.

In August 2019, cult cycling club SoulCycle customers dropped about 13 per cent when fans boycotted the classes because Stephen Ross (of Related Companies) who owns SoulCycle and other brands held a fundraiser for Donald Trump in his home.

Celebrities encouraged fans to boycott the company, and in this age of the influencer, the boycott’s effectiveness could serve as a warning to companies creating inclusive communities around their brands, but then support conflicting causes.

Expect ingredient labels to become even more important with consumers seeking to avoid those that don’t align with their values (ie palm oil).

Creating authentic change

Mintel gives three areas to focus on for the decade ahead in its 2030 Global Food & Drink Trends Report:

  1. Take and activist approach – Consumers will turn to companies to be the leading forces for change on important societal issues. To meet consumer expectations, food, drink, and foodservice companies must establish results-oriented activist approaches.
  2. Facilitate conscious consumption – Consumers will become more mindful about their purchases and behaviours. They will take pride in their personal efforts and support companies that make them feel more judicious in their use of packaging and precious resources.
  3. Prioritise healthy diets for a healthy planet – Conscious consumption habits will inspire more people to consider the environmental and ethical impacts of their diets. Consumers will further prioritise plants in their diets, now with the planet’s health in mind as much as their own. Consumption of animal products will be occasional and focus on ethically raised dairy and animal protein.

Food waste and sustainable food

There’re opportunities for companies helping reduce Australia’s $20 billion food waste problem. According to the Australian Government, in 2016-17 (the base year), Australia produced 7.3 million tonnes of food waste across the supply and consumption chain. Of this, 2.5 million (34 per cent) was created in our homes, 2.3 million tonnes (31 per cent) in primary production and 1.8 million tonnes (25 per cent) in the manufacturing sector.

Opportunities for upcycled food and drink

The global market for upcycled food and beverages is valued $46.7 billion and expected and has an expected CAGR of 5 per cent for the next 10 years, according to a report by UK consulting firm Future Marketing Insights. And consumers are prepared to pay more for products with “upcycled” ingredients according to a 2017 report.

Upcycled refers to waste, or leftovers from processing that made into new, value-added products. It brings opportunities for manufacturers in being able to use what would have otherwise been waste, has significant sustainability benefits and for retailers, means the emergence of a whole new category.

Consumers are already used to the term in the fashion/homewares market, but in Australia the term is still emerging in packaged food and drink products.

Evolution Foods

One of Australia’s greatest success stories solves the problem of 450tonne of green bananas wasted each week in North Queensland. The idea of commercial banana flour came Walkamin banana farmer Rob Watkins accidentally driving over bananas that had been baking in the sun. In 2010 Rob and his wife Krista made their first batch of green banana flour using fruit that would have otherwise gone to waste. Green Banana Resistant Starch is high in prebiotic fibre and also a high source of natural Inulin and 5HTP (5 Hydroxytrytophan), a precursor for serotonin. It’s now widely available under the Evolution Foods brand and in its own DIY baking products, is sold to other manufacturers and available under the Macro brand in Woolworths.


Unilever Food Solutions has partnered with Australian company Yume – Australia’s first online, surplus-food marketplace. Yume’s mission is a world without waste and the company is particularly targeting the commercial food sector, which is estimated to waste nearly four million tonnes of food a year.



ReGrained make a flour called “SuperGrain+” from protein, fibre, and micronutrients left behind when grain is made into beer. The flour is incorporated into snack bars and sold to other manufacturers.


Planetariums makes chips from up-cycled sunflower oilcake (the dry matter left after oil extraction from seeds), which it says can from feed 1.5 billion extra people without growing additional crops by turning what is currently disregarded as animal feed into human food. Founder Aleh Manchuliantsau, a food scientist who works on upcycling food waste, says the sunflower oilcake contains 35 per cent clean, plant-based protein compared to the 26 per cent protein from beef.

Wtrmln Wtr

Ending watermelon waste was the inspiration for Wtrmln Wtr. Launched six years ago when the founders learned that hundreds of millions of pounds of watermelon stayed in fields to rot because the fruit was not attractive for sale in supermarkets, it’s sold throughout the US and the company is growing 30 per cent year-on-year.

Sustainable packaging

Momentum is gathering as Australian Government and industry work towards the 2025 National Packaging Targets, which calls for 100 per cent of all Australia’s packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025 or earlier. Currently 86 per cent of all packaging in market is recyclable (2017–18).

There are 1500 organisations across the complete supply chain actively working to deliver the National Packaging Targets, led by the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation, a co-regulatory, not-for-profit organisation that partners with government and industry to reduce the harmful impact of packaging on the Australian environment.

New benchmarking data shows the greatest challenge is the recycling rate of plastic packaging. The National Packaging Targets set the target for 70 per cent of Australia’s plastic packaging to be recycled or composted by 2025 (currently 16 per cent) and  30 per cent of average recycled content included in all packaging (currently 35 per cent).

Alternative protein

Millions of Australians are reducing their meat intake and interest in plant-based alternatives is gaining considerable momentum with the number of Australian’s identifying as flexitarians growing 20 per cent in the last year, according to a report for Frontier Foods by Colmar Brunton. The report, Hungry for Plant-Based, says consistently all generations nominate health, the environment and animal welfare as the most important reasons to reduce meat consumption. Baby-boomers are leading the meat-reduction trend, whereas vegetarians and vegans are most likely to be millennials, it says.

Australians currently spend $150 million a year on plant-based products but could spend as much as $4.6 billion by the end of the next decade if growth accelerates, according to a first of its kind report produced by Frontier Foods with Deloitte Access Economics. The report, Meat the Alternative, indicates if the current moderate growth trajectory continues, the sector will generate almost $3 billion in retail sales, over $1 billion in manufacturing and employ over 6,000 Australians by 2030.

And it’s not just plant protein set to grow. The global industry for edible insects, sold whole or in a smoothie-ready powder, is expected to grow from sales of $1 billion to $8 billion by 2030, according to a report from Barclays and Meticulous Research.

For more information see this article – Alternative protein market poised to explode.

Tech, transparency and traceability

Consumers are becoming increasingly interested in not only what’s in their food but where it comes from and according to Nielsen, transparency remains one of the biggest influencers driving consumer purchase behaviour today and spans well beyond the ingredient list. Food scares, counterfeit food, and nervousness around genetically modified ingredients have all contributed to growing scepticism and transparency is now an essential ingredient, particularly with the younger generation of shoppers.

Tracking food from manufacturer to shop floor is known as traceability and the market is set for rapid growth in 2020. This will make the food we eat safer and reduce problems with contamination and food fraud. Although still in its infancy, blockchain is already being used to improve food traceability. Expect to hear more about this in 2020 and beyond.

Sustainability – the new standard in beauty

The global cosmetic industry produces more than 120 billion units of packaging every year, much of which is plastic, according to the latest report from Zero Waste.

The problem doesn’t stop at packaging. Plastic can also be found in cosmetic ingredients. For example, micro beads made of plastic are commonly used in body and face scrubs. These tiny balls of plastic are making their way into the ocean and ingested by sea life. 

The good news is, consumer attitudes towards sustainability are growing. 

The demand for toxic-free beauty products is booming, mainly due to consumers believing natural solutions are safer for their skin. 

Cosmetic market leader, Sephora, launched “Clean at Sephora” to their online store, allowing conscious consumers to choose brands that are free from toxic ingredients. 

A general consumer demand for toxic-free ingredients and sustainable packaging are driving the companies that make up the cosmetic industry to change habits and make more eco-friendly choices.

Scroll up Drag View