One of the alarming statistics that motivated business leaders to gather for North America’s Sustainable Food Summit, is the fact that humanity is using the earth’s resources 50 percent faster than the planet can renew. One of the conclusions of the recent World Climate Summit (COP21) is that the food industry must change its ways to correct this imbalance.
In his opening keynote address, Josh Tetrick, CEO and founder of Hampton Creek, pointed out the need to shift from livestock dependence for proteins to sustainable protein sources because of the vast difference in environmental impact. At the end of this year’s Food Summit, Amarjit Sahota, President of Organic Monitor, stated, “The way forward is by disruption.”
“We’ve got to move away from meat and fish to more plant-based proteins, algae or insects,” he explained. “We need disruption to change consumer behavior.”
The Summit brought together some of the most influential organizations and leaders involved in sustainability in the food industry at the Nikko Hotel in San Francisco. Since 2009, Organic Monitor has been organizing such events to provide a forum for solutions for pressing issues concerning the food industry’s needs for sustainability. The gathering offered two interactive workshops and four conference sessions that covered such topics as sustainable agriculture, water impacts, food labeling, sustainable packaging and marketing issues.
Many of the presentations provided proven success stories of businesses capitalizing on the changing landscape of food production. Participants gained a greater understanding of how pulses (grain legumes such as dry beans, chickpeas and dry peas) contribute to sustainability, especially when compared to many other food crops. Their production improves soil health, requires less water, and results in a lower carbon footprint, explained Denis Tremorin, Director of Sustainability for Pulse Canada. His hope is that the UN declaration of this International Year of Pulses will bring attention to various benefits of eating pulses, including their high protein, high fiber, and low fat content.
Other success stories around sustainability included presentations about algae farming at Qualitas Health, new compostable packing used by Alter Eco, and new technologies for creating clean label food ingredients. Nikhil Arora presented his company’s success story of their Back to the Roots organic mushroom farm, which is helping kids understand the values of growing their own food. Joel Warady of Enjoy Life Foods discussed the products in his “free from” food category that helps children and consumers avoid the common allergens causing so many problems in modern diets. Alan Lewis from Natural Grocers explained how their retail stores feature an educational kitchen in which consumers can learn and enjoy the values of cooking with whole foods and organic produce.
One of the hottest topics in the panel discussions was the issue of transparency. Colleen Kavanagh, CEO and founder of ZEGO, addressed the issue by offering her company’s innovative approach to labeling. Their snack bars carry a Z code that can be read by a smartphone or cell phone, providing details of the ingredient sources. This allows consumers to trace the specific batch of their product and to find assurance that it’s free from exposure to tree nuts, gluten, soy, egg, and milk.
Attendees of the Sustainable Foods Summit were treated to various food samples such as Sambazon acai energy drinks, NUMI organic teas, and REBBL organic elixirs, proving that disruption in the food industry can be enjoyable, healthy and delicious.
Future Summits organized by Organic Monitor will be held in Amsterdam 9-10 June 2016, Sao Paolo 29-30 June 2016, and San Francisco, 19-20 January 2017.