Over the past six months, the number of press releases reaching my desk on green and sustainability issues has gone from a trickle to a flood. 2007 is certainly turning out to be the year of sustainability, global warming and all things green in the US. And after the fair-trade trail was blazed in Europe more than a decade ago, it seems that America has come to see both the importance and the potential of these products. Consumer demand is leading the way for fair trade, and companies are responding.
We've seen soaring organics sales, a category some say is — or should be — a part of fair trade. Manufacturers and suppliers are rushing to support green and environmentally friendly initiatives, cleaning up their carbon footprints, and supporting renewable-energy programmes. The race is clearly on.
The sale of Green & Blacks to Cadburys, and The Body Shop to L'Oreal, are all examples of how major companies are looking to green their credentials by acquiring ethical and fair-trade brands. Unilever has announced plans to source its entire tea supply sustainably. Whole Foods has its Whole Trade programme, with clearly defined quality standards for a range of products. Nestlé is sourcing fair-trade coffee. And these are just a very few examples of how green, sustainable and organic are all linked.
These are all developments to be welcomed, but some critics have accused big companies of jumping onto the green bandwagon purely for marketing purposes. That would be a mistake — because consumers are savvy enough to see through the hype.
But whether companies choose to green up or not, they will be affected either way. As the global harvesting of herbal ingredients in vast quantities gobbles up the supply, biodiversity has become an issue, and shortages of botanicals may become commonplace. Crops such as soy, corn, wheat and rapeseed are increasingly being sourced for biofuels, which is driving prices up. Even Asian palm oil is being swallowed up — with potential price hikes in the pipeline. This stretching of rapeseed, soy and palm-oil resources will certainly impact oil suppliers in the future. Increasing pressure on many of the world's staples will greatly influence the supply chain and pricing issues.
Fish sustainability is another source of concern to environmentalists, although the industry says fish oil is a byproduct (see more in our interview with Ocean Nutrition's Robert Orr online at www.Functional Ingredientsmag.com).
Many of our ingredients come from waste-stream products, whether it's kiwi pulp to make enzymes or rice-bran extract to use as fibre. These products represent a great opportunity for their producers to make a genuinely green statement.
One way or another consumers, manufacturers and suppliers are all going to be impacted by global warming and sustainability.
Here at Functional Ingredients we'll be focusing on what companies are doing to green their part of the industry in our GreenSpot column every month. So if your company is going green, drop us a line and let us know.
This issue marks our Second Annual Ingredients Market Overview. Our editorial staff has focused on all the major ingredients to update you on supply and pricing issues — as well as the effects of negative media coverage, particularly of some research studies. We also look at consumer-market trends and macro-economic forces affecting growth. We hope this will act as a useful tool for you in helping you make ingredient-buying decisions when launching innovative products. This is ultimately what the new Functional Ingredients is about. Let us know what you think.