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UK food industry ‘falling short’ of sustainability targets, claims new report

27th Nov 2023 - 08:20
food foundation sustainability targets report
Despite growing concerns over climate change and calls from various quarters, the UK's progress toward sustainable and healthy food practices has slowed, according to The State of the Nation’s Food Industry 2023 report by The Food Foundation.

The report highlights a stark lack of government intervention in making reporting mandatory, resulting in a slowdown of business efforts to transition to more sustainable and healthier diets.

Anna Taylor, executive director of The Food Foundation, said: “Business transparency has stagnated, with fewer businesses disclosing sales weighted data on health and sustainability than last year.

“This negative trend is not being helped by the lack of leadership from government on food, and the fact there is still no agreed way of consistently measuring and reporting the nutrient content and carbon footprint of food.

“Government needs to build business confidence and signal its commitment to the healthy and sustainable diet agenda by making reporting of sales weighted data mandatory.”

Key findings include the absence of specific targets from major UK food retail and service businesses for disclosing the percentage of sales from animal and plant proteins, a critical metric for reducing carbon emissions.

Multi-buy deals further emphasise skewed priorities, with a disproportionate 21.5% of promotions focusing on meat and dairy compared to meagre percentages for fruits, vegetables, and staple carbohydrates.

Advertising spending follows a similar pattern, with just 1% directed towards fruits and vegetables and 0.8% on plant-based dairy alternatives, while meat and dairy products receive a substantial 9%.

The report underscores the environmental impact of the current food system, contributing up to 42% of global greenhouse gas emissions. With livestock farming being a major contributor, the urgency to reduce meat consumption is evident.

The Food Foundation is urging businesses to measure and report on three key metrics: the percentage of sales of high fat salt and sugar (HFSS) foods, fruit and vegetables, and types of protein (animal and plant).

Of the 27 retailers, contract caterers, casual dining and quick service restaurants assessed, no company has a target and reports on all three metrics.

Written by
David Foad