From climate-positive crackers to closed-loop coffee roasting: are carbon-neutral food and beverages here to stay?

From climate-positive crackers to closed-loop coffee roasting: are carbon-neutral food and beverages here to stay?

By
Louise Burfitt
January 12, 2021

It would be pretty nice to rip open a bag of potato chips, or grab a snack on the go, without the lingering sense of guilt that can accompany said purchase - is this packaging even recyclable? How were these potatoes grown? Well, in the future, that guilt could become a thing of the past as companies big and small launch climate-friendly, carbon-neutral products, responding to increased consumer demand for sustainable snacks and other edibles, and investing in regenerative agriculture, carbon offsetting and innovative new carbon capture technology in the process. 

 

What is a carbon-neutral product? 

When a food product is produced in a carbon-neutral way, the manufacturing and distribution processes either emit no carbon into the atmosphere or the company balances the carbon emissions the product does create with carbon removal. Some companies remove this carbon with an offsetting process while others remove or balance emissions themselves through closed loop processes and regenerative agriculture. Some brands are going even further, by developing food or beverages that are carbon positive. This means the company removes or offsets more carbon than it emits. 

 

Trend drivers: conscious consumerism, appealing to millennials & increased awareness of agriculture’s impact

The growth in conscious consumerism is one of the main factors driving companies to develop carbon-neutral products. While behind the scenes, many CPG companies are hoping to hit net zero emissions, this corporate jargon can go over the heads of consumers or fall upon deaf ears. By developing and marketing products as climate-neutral, companies can communicate their sustainable values directly to customers. 

 

Millennials and Gen X-ers, in particular, are engaging with the impact of their food and drink choices on the planet – and this is only expected to grow in a post-pandemic world. According to surveys by GlobalData, younger demographics worldwide reported the greatest interest in products with lower environmental footprints in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. 

 

As part of their carbon-neutral manufacturing process, some companies - including PepsiCo in partnership with CCm Technologies - are exploring regenerative agriculture and carbon capture technology as a means to achieving carbon-neutral status. This reflects a growing awareness among consumers and corporates about the importance of healthy soil when it comes to food production. Scientists believe that unless drastic changes are made to the way we farm, the world has just sixty years’ worth of healthy topsoil left. Regenerative agriculture - like that being championed by Danone - captures carbon in the soil, improves soil health and can contribute to a closed loop agricultural system wherein a farm or food factory recycles all its organic waste back into the soil. 

 

Exploring the trend: snacks, drinks & dairy

Carbon-neutral snacks, in particular, are one of the major ways this trend is manifesting – as some consumers move away from the traditional three meals a day format. Moonshot Snacks, for example, sells climate-friendly crackers in the US, with a firm commitment to closed-loop agriculture and reducing the greenhouse gas emissions linked to food. They achieve climate-neutrality with a small, handpicked supply chain and partnerships with farmers growing regenerative ingredients. Research has shown that the demand for carbon-neutral snack foods is growing, with the coronavirus pandemic making environmental sustainability more important to consumers. So it makes sense that some of the biggest food and beverage brands are jumping on the carbon-neutral bandwagon. 

 

Last year, F&B conglomerate Mondelez International launched carbon-neutral cracker NoCOé aimed at millennials, as part of its investment and innovation hub SnackFutures. Currently exclusive to the French market, the launch is a test of sorts to monitor the snack’s resonance with millennial, eco-conscious customers. The cracker’s carbon-neutral status is achieved by offsetting emissions through a partnership with Rainforest Action - although some critics would argue that offsetting has its downsides.

 

Rather than outsourcing their carbon mitigation efforts, the PepsiCo-owned crisp brand Walkers have partnered with British clean technology company CCm Technologies to turn potato peelings left over from crisp manufacturing into low-carbon fertiliser. Completing the cycle, this fertiliser can then be used to grow the potatoes that are made into crisps. Walkers hopes to install the innovative tech in its UK factory this year. 

 

The carbon-neutral trend isn’t just limited to edibles: climate-friendly drinks to grab on the go are also on the horizon. Swiss company FOCUSWATER makes carbon-neutral flavoured water. Their bottles use a minimum of 35% recycled PET and all carbon emissions produced during the production process are offset by funding climate conservation projects. The Carbon Neutral Drinks Company does just what it says on the tin - supplying carbon-offset tea, coffee and hot chocolate powder to sustainably minded customers. The company achieves carbon neutrality by planting one tree for every order sold in partnership with the UN’s Green Earth Appeal. The company’s coffee is roasted by Eco Roast, which uses spent coffee grounds to produce biofuel for its coffee roasters (an example of closed-loop technology) and the UK brand is now even offering carbon-neutral doorstep delivery to its local customers.

 

The dairy industry is a massive contributor to carbon and greenhouse gas emissions, so it’s a welcoming sign that some dairy product producers are signalling an interest in developing carbon-neutral offerings. German ice-cream maker DasEis makes organic, Fairtrade frozen treats that are 100% carbon neutral, with half of its range foregoing dairy altogether (and therefore vegan). Its raw ingredients are sourced as locally as possible while the finished product is packaged in fully compostable packaging at a carbon-neutral facility. Danish multinational Arla Foods has also launched carbon-neutral milk in Sweden and Denmark.

 

Case Studies: Horizon Dairy & Impact Snacks 

For one dairy company, going climate-neutral isn’t enough: America’s Horizon Organic Dairy, part of Danone North America, is aiming for climate positivity across its entire supply chain by 2025 - just four short years away. The firm hopes to improve regenerative soil health on its dairy farms, in which soil retains nutrients and water and keeps carbon out of the Earth’s atmosphere. As part of this drive, the company plans to release its first certified carbon-neutral product: Growing Years whole milk half gallons. In March 2020, Horizon said it hoped to introduce this product in the same year, but the lack of updates since point to the difficulties in holding private companies to account. It’s also likely that the impact of COVID-19 will have delayed the product’s launch. 

 

In more carbon-positive news: Impact Snacks is a plant-based snacks company based in Boston, USA, which says it’s the first snacking brand in the world to reclaim more carbon than it uses and emits. The company sells vegan superfood bars in plastic-free, compostable packaging and has achieved a devoted fanbase, who helped to fully fund its initial crowdfunding campaign. Each carbon-positive superfood bar, which comes in two flavour variations, generates approximately 0.17kg of emissions, which the brand offsets by more than 2.5 times through investment in renewable energy projects. Impact also operates its own app, through which shoppers can choose which social and environmental projects the ‘carbon credits’ from their purchase will fund.

 

Next steps for brands interested in climate-neutrality

Companies already making plant-based products have a head start when it comes to making existing offerings climate-neutral. Meat and dairy products generally have a far higher carbon footprint than their vegan alternatives, so brands looking to branch out into carbon-neutral products may wish to bear this in mind. 

 

In a related emerging trend, No Evil Foods became the world’s first ever plastic-negative vegan meat brand last November, with a commitment to remove, recover and recycle two times as much plastic as it generates. Expect to see more and more carbon neutral- inspired trends emerging as companies race to declare their sustainability credentials. 

 

When considering joining the climate-neutral bandwagon, it’s worth remembering that developing a carbon-neutral product requires intensive research, planning and effort. Brands must scrutinise the origins of their products, how they are sourced and manufactured, and where they are sold and consumed. Having a short supply chain is vital. And that’s not forgetting packaging, recyclability and distribution. Then there’s the question of how exactly carbon-neutral status will be achieved (and, possibly, certified) - is offsetting the best route, or could your company join forces with a technology company, like Walkers, or an eco-friendly partner, as The Carbon Neutral Drinks Company has done?

 

Despite the research and investment involved, demand for carbon-neutral food and drinks products is only likely to grow, as climate change moves further up the agenda of consumers and corporations alike. As we’ve seen from sprawling F&B conglomerates joining the carbon-neutral party, what was once a niche sector is gradually becoming part of the mainstream.

The 30-second pitch: Carbon-neutral food and drink products


🌍 What

  • With conscious consumerism on the rise, particularly among younger generations, carbon-neutral food and beverage products are gaining in popularity. 

🤷 Why

  • Consumers are driving demand as awareness of the climate emergency and the disastrous impact of industrial agriculture on the planet grows. 
  • In the wake of the pandemic, younger demographics worldwide are also reporting increased interest in products with lower environmental footprints

🌳 How

  • Carbon offsetting 
  • Closed-loop methods and technologies 
  • Innovative carbon capture technologies 
  • Regenerative agriculture

👀 Who

👍 The good

  • Carbon-neutral products are a welcome step on the journey to greater sustainability in the food and beverage industry, and can achieve greater awareness among consumers about the impact of their purchasing choices. 
  • Both regenerative agriculture and carbon capture technology cultivate healthy soil and help to lessen the impact of traditional farming and food production on the planet.
  • Certain sectors within the food and drinks world - like the dairy industry - exert an outsized impact on the environment. Investing in carbon-neutral versions could provide a route to greater sustainability. 

👎 The bad

  • Many companies use carbon offsetting to achieve carbon neutral status. While this is not always a negative, the potential downsides of offsetting have been well-documented.
  • While carbon-neutrality can be certified, the claims to climate neutrality by companies who choose not to go down this route can be difficult to fact-check or hold to account. 

💡 The bottom line

  • Despite the research and investment involved, demand for carbon-neutral food and drinks products is only likely to grow, as climate change moves further up the agenda of consumers and corporations alike. What was once a niche sector is gradually becoming part of the mainstream.

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It would be pretty nice to rip open a bag of potato chips, or grab a snack on the go, without the lingering sense of guilt that can accompany said purchase - is this packaging even recyclable? How were these potatoes grown? Well, in the future, that guilt could become a thing of the past as companies big and small launch climate-friendly, carbon-neutral products, responding to increased consumer demand for sustainable snacks and other edibles, and investing in regenerative agriculture, carbon offsetting and innovative new carbon capture technology in the process. 

 

What is a carbon-neutral product? 

When a food product is produced in a carbon-neutral way, the manufacturing and distribution processes either emit no carbon into the atmosphere or the company balances the carbon emissions the product does create with carbon removal. Some companies remove this carbon with an offsetting process while others remove or balance emissions themselves through closed loop processes and regenerative agriculture. Some brands are going even further, by developing food or beverages that are carbon positive. This means the company removes or offsets more carbon than it emits. 

 

Trend drivers: conscious consumerism, appealing to millennials & increased awareness of agriculture’s impact

The growth in conscious consumerism is one of the main factors driving companies to develop carbon-neutral products. While behind the scenes, many CPG companies are hoping to hit net zero emissions, this corporate jargon can go over the heads of consumers or fall upon deaf ears. By developing and marketing products as climate-neutral, companies can communicate their sustainable values directly to customers. 

 

Millennials and Gen X-ers, in particular, are engaging with the impact of their food and drink choices on the planet – and this is only expected to grow in a post-pandemic world. According to surveys by GlobalData, younger demographics worldwide reported the greatest interest in products with lower environmental footprints in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. 

 

As part of their carbon-neutral manufacturing process, some companies - including PepsiCo in partnership with CCm Technologies - are exploring regenerative agriculture and carbon capture technology as a means to achieving carbon-neutral status. This reflects a growing awareness among consumers and corporates about the importance of healthy soil when it comes to food production. Scientists believe that unless drastic changes are made to the way we farm, the world has just sixty years’ worth of healthy topsoil left. Regenerative agriculture - like that being championed by Danone - captures carbon in the soil, improves soil health and can contribute to a closed loop agricultural system wherein a farm or food factory recycles all its organic waste back into the soil. 

 

Exploring the trend: snacks, drinks & dairy

Carbon-neutral snacks, in particular, are one of the major ways this trend is manifesting – as some consumers move away from the traditional three meals a day format. Moonshot Snacks, for example, sells climate-friendly crackers in the US, with a firm commitment to closed-loop agriculture and reducing the greenhouse gas emissions linked to food. They achieve climate-neutrality with a small, handpicked supply chain and partnerships with farmers growing regenerative ingredients. Research has shown that the demand for carbon-neutral snack foods is growing, with the coronavirus pandemic making environmental sustainability more important to consumers. So it makes sense that some of the biggest food and beverage brands are jumping on the carbon-neutral bandwagon. 

 

Last year, F&B conglomerate Mondelez International launched carbon-neutral cracker NoCOé aimed at millennials, as part of its investment and innovation hub SnackFutures. Currently exclusive to the French market, the launch is a test of sorts to monitor the snack’s resonance with millennial, eco-conscious customers. The cracker’s carbon-neutral status is achieved by offsetting emissions through a partnership with Rainforest Action - although some critics would argue that offsetting has its downsides.

 

Rather than outsourcing their carbon mitigation efforts, the PepsiCo-owned crisp brand Walkers have partnered with British clean technology company CCm Technologies to turn potato peelings left over from crisp manufacturing into low-carbon fertiliser. Completing the cycle, this fertiliser can then be used to grow the potatoes that are made into crisps. Walkers hopes to install the innovative tech in its UK factory this year. 

 

The carbon-neutral trend isn’t just limited to edibles: climate-friendly drinks to grab on the go are also on the horizon. Swiss company FOCUSWATER makes carbon-neutral flavoured water. Their bottles use a minimum of 35% recycled PET and all carbon emissions produced during the production process are offset by funding climate conservation projects. The Carbon Neutral Drinks Company does just what it says on the tin - supplying carbon-offset tea, coffee and hot chocolate powder to sustainably minded customers. The company achieves carbon neutrality by planting one tree for every order sold in partnership with the UN’s Green Earth Appeal. The company’s coffee is roasted by Eco Roast, which uses spent coffee grounds to produce biofuel for its coffee roasters (an example of closed-loop technology) and the UK brand is now even offering carbon-neutral doorstep delivery to its local customers.

 

The dairy industry is a massive contributor to carbon and greenhouse gas emissions, so it’s a welcoming sign that some dairy product producers are signalling an interest in developing carbon-neutral offerings. German ice-cream maker DasEis makes organic, Fairtrade frozen treats that are 100% carbon neutral, with half of its range foregoing dairy altogether (and therefore vegan). Its raw ingredients are sourced as locally as possible while the finished product is packaged in fully compostable packaging at a carbon-neutral facility. Danish multinational Arla Foods has also launched carbon-neutral milk in Sweden and Denmark.

 

Case Studies: Horizon Dairy & Impact Snacks 

For one dairy company, going climate-neutral isn’t enough: America’s Horizon Organic Dairy, part of Danone North America, is aiming for climate positivity across its entire supply chain by 2025 - just four short years away. The firm hopes to improve regenerative soil health on its dairy farms, in which soil retains nutrients and water and keeps carbon out of the Earth’s atmosphere. As part of this drive, the company plans to release its first certified carbon-neutral product: Growing Years whole milk half gallons. In March 2020, Horizon said it hoped to introduce this product in the same year, but the lack of updates since point to the difficulties in holding private companies to account. It’s also likely that the impact of COVID-19 will have delayed the product’s launch. 

 

In more carbon-positive news: Impact Snacks is a plant-based snacks company based in Boston, USA, which says it’s the first snacking brand in the world to reclaim more carbon than it uses and emits. The company sells vegan superfood bars in plastic-free, compostable packaging and has achieved a devoted fanbase, who helped to fully fund its initial crowdfunding campaign. Each carbon-positive superfood bar, which comes in two flavour variations, generates approximately 0.17kg of emissions, which the brand offsets by more than 2.5 times through investment in renewable energy projects. Impact also operates its own app, through which shoppers can choose which social and environmental projects the ‘carbon credits’ from their purchase will fund.

 

Next steps for brands interested in climate-neutrality

Companies already making plant-based products have a head start when it comes to making existing offerings climate-neutral. Meat and dairy products generally have a far higher carbon footprint than their vegan alternatives, so brands looking to branch out into carbon-neutral products may wish to bear this in mind. 

 

In a related emerging trend, No Evil Foods became the world’s first ever plastic-negative vegan meat brand last November, with a commitment to remove, recover and recycle two times as much plastic as it generates. Expect to see more and more carbon neutral- inspired trends emerging as companies race to declare their sustainability credentials. 

 

When considering joining the climate-neutral bandwagon, it’s worth remembering that developing a carbon-neutral product requires intensive research, planning and effort. Brands must scrutinise the origins of their products, how they are sourced and manufactured, and where they are sold and consumed. Having a short supply chain is vital. And that’s not forgetting packaging, recyclability and distribution. Then there’s the question of how exactly carbon-neutral status will be achieved (and, possibly, certified) - is offsetting the best route, or could your company join forces with a technology company, like Walkers, or an eco-friendly partner, as The Carbon Neutral Drinks Company has done?

 

Despite the research and investment involved, demand for carbon-neutral food and drinks products is only likely to grow, as climate change moves further up the agenda of consumers and corporations alike. As we’ve seen from sprawling F&B conglomerates joining the carbon-neutral party, what was once a niche sector is gradually becoming part of the mainstream.

The 30-second pitch: Carbon-neutral food and drink products


🌍 What

  • With conscious consumerism on the rise, particularly among younger generations, carbon-neutral food and beverage products are gaining in popularity. 

🤷 Why

  • Consumers are driving demand as awareness of the climate emergency and the disastrous impact of industrial agriculture on the planet grows. 
  • In the wake of the pandemic, younger demographics worldwide are also reporting increased interest in products with lower environmental footprints

🌳 How

  • Carbon offsetting 
  • Closed-loop methods and technologies 
  • Innovative carbon capture technologies 
  • Regenerative agriculture

👀 Who

👍 The good

  • Carbon-neutral products are a welcome step on the journey to greater sustainability in the food and beverage industry, and can achieve greater awareness among consumers about the impact of their purchasing choices. 
  • Both regenerative agriculture and carbon capture technology cultivate healthy soil and help to lessen the impact of traditional farming and food production on the planet.
  • Certain sectors within the food and drinks world - like the dairy industry - exert an outsized impact on the environment. Investing in carbon-neutral versions could provide a route to greater sustainability. 

👎 The bad

  • Many companies use carbon offsetting to achieve carbon neutral status. While this is not always a negative, the potential downsides of offsetting have been well-documented.
  • While carbon-neutrality can be certified, the claims to climate neutrality by companies who choose not to go down this route can be difficult to fact-check or hold to account. 

💡 The bottom line

  • Despite the research and investment involved, demand for carbon-neutral food and drinks products is only likely to grow, as climate change moves further up the agenda of consumers and corporations alike. What was once a niche sector is gradually becoming part of the mainstream.

It would be pretty nice to rip open a bag of potato chips, or grab a snack on the go, without the lingering sense of guilt that can accompany said purchase - is this packaging even recyclable? How were these potatoes grown? Well, in the future, that guilt could become a thing of the past as companies big and small launch climate-friendly, carbon-neutral products, responding to increased consumer demand for sustainable snacks and other edibles, and investing in regenerative agriculture, carbon offsetting and innovative new carbon capture technology in the process. 

 

What is a carbon-neutral product? 

When a food product is produced in a carbon-neutral way, the manufacturing and distribution processes either emit no carbon into the atmosphere or the company balances the carbon emissions the product does create with carbon removal. Some companies remove this carbon with an offsetting process while others remove or balance emissions themselves through closed loop processes and regenerative agriculture. Some brands are going even further, by developing food or beverages that are carbon positive. This means the company removes or offsets more carbon than it emits. 

 

Trend drivers: conscious consumerism, appealing to millennials & increased awareness of agriculture’s impact

The growth in conscious consumerism is one of the main factors driving companies to develop carbon-neutral products. While behind the scenes, many CPG companies are hoping to hit net zero emissions, this corporate jargon can go over the heads of consumers or fall upon deaf ears. By developing and marketing products as climate-neutral, companies can communicate their sustainable values directly to customers. 

 

Millennials and Gen X-ers, in particular, are engaging with the impact of their food and drink choices on the planet – and this is only expected to grow in a post-pandemic world. According to surveys by GlobalData, younger demographics worldwide reported the greatest interest in products with lower environmental footprints in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. 

 

As part of their carbon-neutral manufacturing process, some companies - including PepsiCo in partnership with CCm Technologies - are exploring regenerative agriculture and carbon capture technology as a means to achieving carbon-neutral status. This reflects a growing awareness among consumers and corporates about the importance of healthy soil when it comes to food production. Scientists believe that unless drastic changes are made to the way we farm, the world has just sixty years’ worth of healthy topsoil left. Regenerative agriculture - like that being championed by Danone - captures carbon in the soil, improves soil health and can contribute to a closed loop agricultural system wherein a farm or food factory recycles all its organic waste back into the soil. 

 

Exploring the trend: snacks, drinks & dairy

Carbon-neutral snacks, in particular, are one of the major ways this trend is manifesting – as some consumers move away from the traditional three meals a day format. Moonshot Snacks, for example, sells climate-friendly crackers in the US, with a firm commitment to closed-loop agriculture and reducing the greenhouse gas emissions linked to food. They achieve climate-neutrality with a small, handpicked supply chain and partnerships with farmers growing regenerative ingredients. Research has shown that the demand for carbon-neutral snack foods is growing, with the coronavirus pandemic making environmental sustainability more important to consumers. So it makes sense that some of the biggest food and beverage brands are jumping on the carbon-neutral bandwagon. 

 

Last year, F&B conglomerate Mondelez International launched carbon-neutral cracker NoCOé aimed at millennials, as part of its investment and innovation hub SnackFutures. Currently exclusive to the French market, the launch is a test of sorts to monitor the snack’s resonance with millennial, eco-conscious customers. The cracker’s carbon-neutral status is achieved by offsetting emissions through a partnership with Rainforest Action - although some critics would argue that offsetting has its downsides.

 

Rather than outsourcing their carbon mitigation efforts, the PepsiCo-owned crisp brand Walkers have partnered with British clean technology company CCm Technologies to turn potato peelings left over from crisp manufacturing into low-carbon fertiliser. Completing the cycle, this fertiliser can then be used to grow the potatoes that are made into crisps. Walkers hopes to install the innovative tech in its UK factory this year. 

 

The carbon-neutral trend isn’t just limited to edibles: climate-friendly drinks to grab on the go are also on the horizon. Swiss company FOCUSWATER makes carbon-neutral flavoured water. Their bottles use a minimum of 35% recycled PET and all carbon emissions produced during the production process are offset by funding climate conservation projects. The Carbon Neutral Drinks Company does just what it says on the tin - supplying carbon-offset tea, coffee and hot chocolate powder to sustainably minded customers. The company achieves carbon neutrality by planting one tree for every order sold in partnership with the UN’s Green Earth Appeal. The company’s coffee is roasted by Eco Roast, which uses spent coffee grounds to produce biofuel for its coffee roasters (an example of closed-loop technology) and the UK brand is now even offering carbon-neutral doorstep delivery to its local customers.

 

The dairy industry is a massive contributor to carbon and greenhouse gas emissions, so it’s a welcoming sign that some dairy product producers are signalling an interest in developing carbon-neutral offerings. German ice-cream maker DasEis makes organic, Fairtrade frozen treats that are 100% carbon neutral, with half of its range foregoing dairy altogether (and therefore vegan). Its raw ingredients are sourced as locally as possible while the finished product is packaged in fully compostable packaging at a carbon-neutral facility. Danish multinational Arla Foods has also launched carbon-neutral milk in Sweden and Denmark.

 

Case Studies: Horizon Dairy & Impact Snacks 

For one dairy company, going climate-neutral isn’t enough: America’s Horizon Organic Dairy, part of Danone North America, is aiming for climate positivity across its entire supply chain by 2025 - just four short years away. The firm hopes to improve regenerative soil health on its dairy farms, in which soil retains nutrients and water and keeps carbon out of the Earth’s atmosphere. As part of this drive, the company plans to release its first certified carbon-neutral product: Growing Years whole milk half gallons. In March 2020, Horizon said it hoped to introduce this product in the same year, but the lack of updates since point to the difficulties in holding private companies to account. It’s also likely that the impact of COVID-19 will have delayed the product’s launch. 

 

In more carbon-positive news: Impact Snacks is a plant-based snacks company based in Boston, USA, which says it’s the first snacking brand in the world to reclaim more carbon than it uses and emits. The company sells vegan superfood bars in plastic-free, compostable packaging and has achieved a devoted fanbase, who helped to fully fund its initial crowdfunding campaign. Each carbon-positive superfood bar, which comes in two flavour variations, generates approximately 0.17kg of emissions, which the brand offsets by more than 2.5 times through investment in renewable energy projects. Impact also operates its own app, through which shoppers can choose which social and environmental projects the ‘carbon credits’ from their purchase will fund.

 

Next steps for brands interested in climate-neutrality

Companies already making plant-based products have a head start when it comes to making existing offerings climate-neutral. Meat and dairy products generally have a far higher carbon footprint than their vegan alternatives, so brands looking to branch out into carbon-neutral products may wish to bear this in mind. 

 

In a related emerging trend, No Evil Foods became the world’s first ever plastic-negative vegan meat brand last November, with a commitment to remove, recover and recycle two times as much plastic as it generates. Expect to see more and more carbon neutral- inspired trends emerging as companies race to declare their sustainability credentials. 

 

When considering joining the climate-neutral bandwagon, it’s worth remembering that developing a carbon-neutral product requires intensive research, planning and effort. Brands must scrutinise the origins of their products, how they are sourced and manufactured, and where they are sold and consumed. Having a short supply chain is vital. And that’s not forgetting packaging, recyclability and distribution. Then there’s the question of how exactly carbon-neutral status will be achieved (and, possibly, certified) - is offsetting the best route, or could your company join forces with a technology company, like Walkers, or an eco-friendly partner, as The Carbon Neutral Drinks Company has done?

 

Despite the research and investment involved, demand for carbon-neutral food and drinks products is only likely to grow, as climate change moves further up the agenda of consumers and corporations alike. As we’ve seen from sprawling F&B conglomerates joining the carbon-neutral party, what was once a niche sector is gradually becoming part of the mainstream.

The 30-second pitch: Carbon-neutral food and drink products


🌍 What

  • With conscious consumerism on the rise, particularly among younger generations, carbon-neutral food and beverage products are gaining in popularity. 

🤷 Why

  • Consumers are driving demand as awareness of the climate emergency and the disastrous impact of industrial agriculture on the planet grows. 
  • In the wake of the pandemic, younger demographics worldwide are also reporting increased interest in products with lower environmental footprints

🌳 How

  • Carbon offsetting 
  • Closed-loop methods and technologies 
  • Innovative carbon capture technologies 
  • Regenerative agriculture

👀 Who

👍 The good

  • Carbon-neutral products are a welcome step on the journey to greater sustainability in the food and beverage industry, and can achieve greater awareness among consumers about the impact of their purchasing choices. 
  • Both regenerative agriculture and carbon capture technology cultivate healthy soil and help to lessen the impact of traditional farming and food production on the planet.
  • Certain sectors within the food and drinks world - like the dairy industry - exert an outsized impact on the environment. Investing in carbon-neutral versions could provide a route to greater sustainability. 

👎 The bad

  • Many companies use carbon offsetting to achieve carbon neutral status. While this is not always a negative, the potential downsides of offsetting have been well-documented.
  • While carbon-neutrality can be certified, the claims to climate neutrality by companies who choose not to go down this route can be difficult to fact-check or hold to account. 

💡 The bottom line

  • Despite the research and investment involved, demand for carbon-neutral food and drinks products is only likely to grow, as climate change moves further up the agenda of consumers and corporations alike. What was once a niche sector is gradually becoming part of the mainstream.

It would be pretty nice to rip open a bag of potato chips, or grab a snack on the go, without the lingering sense of guilt that can accompany said purchase - is this packaging even recyclable? How were these potatoes grown? Well, in the future, that guilt could become a thing of the past as companies big and small launch climate-friendly, carbon-neutral products, responding to increased consumer demand for sustainable snacks and other edibles, and investing in regenerative agriculture, carbon offsetting and innovative new carbon capture technology in the process. 

 

What is a carbon-neutral product? 

When a food product is produced in a carbon-neutral way, the manufacturing and distribution processes either emit no carbon into the atmosphere or the company balances the carbon emissions the product does create with carbon removal. Some companies remove this carbon with an offsetting process while others remove or balance emissions themselves through closed loop processes and regenerative agriculture. Some brands are going even further, by developing food or beverages that are carbon positive. This means the company removes or offsets more carbon than it emits. 

 

Trend drivers: conscious consumerism, appealing to millennials & increased awareness of agriculture’s impact

The growth in conscious consumerism is one of the main factors driving companies to develop carbon-neutral products. While behind the scenes, many CPG companies are hoping to hit net zero emissions, this corporate jargon can go over the heads of consumers or fall upon deaf ears. By developing and marketing products as climate-neutral, companies can communicate their sustainable values directly to customers. 

 

Millennials and Gen X-ers, in particular, are engaging with the impact of their food and drink choices on the planet – and this is only expected to grow in a post-pandemic world. According to surveys by GlobalData, younger demographics worldwide reported the greatest interest in products with lower environmental footprints in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. 

 

As part of their carbon-neutral manufacturing process, some companies - including PepsiCo in partnership with CCm Technologies - are exploring regenerative agriculture and carbon capture technology as a means to achieving carbon-neutral status. This reflects a growing awareness among consumers and corporates about the importance of healthy soil when it comes to food production. Scientists believe that unless drastic changes are made to the way we farm, the world has just sixty years’ worth of healthy topsoil left. Regenerative agriculture - like that being championed by Danone - captures carbon in the soil, improves soil health and can contribute to a closed loop agricultural system wherein a farm or food factory recycles all its organic waste back into the soil. 

 

Exploring the trend: snacks, drinks & dairy

Carbon-neutral snacks, in particular, are one of the major ways this trend is manifesting – as some consumers move away from the traditional three meals a day format. Moonshot Snacks, for example, sells climate-friendly crackers in the US, with a firm commitment to closed-loop agriculture and reducing the greenhouse gas emissions linked to food. They achieve climate-neutrality with a small, handpicked supply chain and partnerships with farmers growing regenerative ingredients. Research has shown that the demand for carbon-neutral snack foods is growing, with the coronavirus pandemic making environmental sustainability more important to consumers. So it makes sense that some of the biggest food and beverage brands are jumping on the carbon-neutral bandwagon. 

 

Last year, F&B conglomerate Mondelez International launched carbon-neutral cracker NoCOé aimed at millennials, as part of its investment and innovation hub SnackFutures. Currently exclusive to the French market, the launch is a test of sorts to monitor the snack’s resonance with millennial, eco-conscious customers. The cracker’s carbon-neutral status is achieved by offsetting emissions through a partnership with Rainforest Action - although some critics would argue that offsetting has its downsides.

 

Rather than outsourcing their carbon mitigation efforts, the PepsiCo-owned crisp brand Walkers have partnered with British clean technology company CCm Technologies to turn potato peelings left over from crisp manufacturing into low-carbon fertiliser. Completing the cycle, this fertiliser can then be used to grow the potatoes that are made into crisps. Walkers hopes to install the innovative tech in its UK factory this year. 

 

The carbon-neutral trend isn’t just limited to edibles: climate-friendly drinks to grab on the go are also on the horizon. Swiss company FOCUSWATER makes carbon-neutral flavoured water. Their bottles use a minimum of 35% recycled PET and all carbon emissions produced during the production process are offset by funding climate conservation projects. The Carbon Neutral Drinks Company does just what it says on the tin - supplying carbon-offset tea, coffee and hot chocolate powder to sustainably minded customers. The company achieves carbon neutrality by planting one tree for every order sold in partnership with the UN’s Green Earth Appeal. The company’s coffee is roasted by Eco Roast, which uses spent coffee grounds to produce biofuel for its coffee roasters (an example of closed-loop technology) and the UK brand is now even offering carbon-neutral doorstep delivery to its local customers.

 

The dairy industry is a massive contributor to carbon and greenhouse gas emissions, so it’s a welcoming sign that some dairy product producers are signalling an interest in developing carbon-neutral offerings. German ice-cream maker DasEis makes organic, Fairtrade frozen treats that are 100% carbon neutral, with half of its range foregoing dairy altogether (and therefore vegan). Its raw ingredients are sourced as locally as possible while the finished product is packaged in fully compostable packaging at a carbon-neutral facility. Danish multinational Arla Foods has also launched carbon-neutral milk in Sweden and Denmark.

 

Case Studies: Horizon Dairy & Impact Snacks 

For one dairy company, going climate-neutral isn’t enough: America’s Horizon Organic Dairy, part of Danone North America, is aiming for climate positivity across its entire supply chain by 2025 - just four short years away. The firm hopes to improve regenerative soil health on its dairy farms, in which soil retains nutrients and water and keeps carbon out of the Earth’s atmosphere. As part of this drive, the company plans to release its first certified carbon-neutral product: Growing Years whole milk half gallons. In March 2020, Horizon said it hoped to introduce this product in the same year, but the lack of updates since point to the difficulties in holding private companies to account. It’s also likely that the impact of COVID-19 will have delayed the product’s launch. 

 

In more carbon-positive news: Impact Snacks is a plant-based snacks company based in Boston, USA, which says it’s the first snacking brand in the world to reclaim more carbon than it uses and emits. The company sells vegan superfood bars in plastic-free, compostable packaging and has achieved a devoted fanbase, who helped to fully fund its initial crowdfunding campaign. Each carbon-positive superfood bar, which comes in two flavour variations, generates approximately 0.17kg of emissions, which the brand offsets by more than 2.5 times through investment in renewable energy projects. Impact also operates its own app, through which shoppers can choose which social and environmental projects the ‘carbon credits’ from their purchase will fund.

 

Next steps for brands interested in climate-neutrality

Companies already making plant-based products have a head start when it comes to making existing offerings climate-neutral. Meat and dairy products generally have a far higher carbon footprint than their vegan alternatives, so brands looking to branch out into carbon-neutral products may wish to bear this in mind. 

 

In a related emerging trend, No Evil Foods became the world’s first ever plastic-negative vegan meat brand last November, with a commitment to remove, recover and recycle two times as much plastic as it generates. Expect to see more and more carbon neutral- inspired trends emerging as companies race to declare their sustainability credentials. 

 

When considering joining the climate-neutral bandwagon, it’s worth remembering that developing a carbon-neutral product requires intensive research, planning and effort. Brands must scrutinise the origins of their products, how they are sourced and manufactured, and where they are sold and consumed. Having a short supply chain is vital. And that’s not forgetting packaging, recyclability and distribution. Then there’s the question of how exactly carbon-neutral status will be achieved (and, possibly, certified) - is offsetting the best route, or could your company join forces with a technology company, like Walkers, or an eco-friendly partner, as The Carbon Neutral Drinks Company has done?

 

Despite the research and investment involved, demand for carbon-neutral food and drinks products is only likely to grow, as climate change moves further up the agenda of consumers and corporations alike. As we’ve seen from sprawling F&B conglomerates joining the carbon-neutral party, what was once a niche sector is gradually becoming part of the mainstream.

The 30-second pitch: Carbon-neutral food and drink products


🌍 What

  • With conscious consumerism on the rise, particularly among younger generations, carbon-neutral food and beverage products are gaining in popularity. 

🤷 Why

  • Consumers are driving demand as awareness of the climate emergency and the disastrous impact of industrial agriculture on the planet grows. 
  • In the wake of the pandemic, younger demographics worldwide are also reporting increased interest in products with lower environmental footprints

🌳 How

  • Carbon offsetting 
  • Closed-loop methods and technologies 
  • Innovative carbon capture technologies 
  • Regenerative agriculture

👀 Who

👍 The good

  • Carbon-neutral products are a welcome step on the journey to greater sustainability in the food and beverage industry, and can achieve greater awareness among consumers about the impact of their purchasing choices. 
  • Both regenerative agriculture and carbon capture technology cultivate healthy soil and help to lessen the impact of traditional farming and food production on the planet.
  • Certain sectors within the food and drinks world - like the dairy industry - exert an outsized impact on the environment. Investing in carbon-neutral versions could provide a route to greater sustainability. 

👎 The bad

  • Many companies use carbon offsetting to achieve carbon neutral status. While this is not always a negative, the potential downsides of offsetting have been well-documented.
  • While carbon-neutrality can be certified, the claims to climate neutrality by companies who choose not to go down this route can be difficult to fact-check or hold to account. 

💡 The bottom line

  • Despite the research and investment involved, demand for carbon-neutral food and drinks products is only likely to grow, as climate change moves further up the agenda of consumers and corporations alike. What was once a niche sector is gradually becoming part of the mainstream.

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