Friday, 19 June 2015

On ethical consumption...

Ethical Food Consumption

When thinking about ethical food waste, many may recall being told to "think about the starving children in Africa" after failing to finish the food on their plate as a child. Whilst ethical concerns over the production and disposal of food is nothing new, there is a perpetual need for food and drink-based companies to restructure, reimagine and re-brand themselves to fit the trending ethical expectations of consumers.

In May, a law passed in France making it illegal for large supermarkets to dispose of edible food. Arash Derambarsh, the politician responsible for this policy, is hoping that other countries will follow suit. In reaction to the mounting social and governmental pressure food wastage campaigns have had on supermarkets, Tesco, the UK supermarket giant, has been quick to take action. In an effort to boost its public image and stay ahead of the conscious consumption game, Tesco has responded in two significant ways. In 2013, it took the bold move to start publishing its food wastage figures, pledging to take necessary steps to reduce these figures in the future. More recently, it has started a scheme, alongside food redistribution charity FairShare, to donate its surplus to local charities. These actions have not only boosted Tesco’s public image, but have also pressured competing supermarkets to follow in its path.

McDonald’s, a global brand name in the fast food industry, has been no exception to the conscious consumer culture. In fact, on numerous occasions it has been forced to re-brand in response to public opprobrium. In recent years, it has come under a lot of pressure to improve the quality of its food. This has not just been a case of needing to provide a more slimming, nutritional menu, which we saw following the release of documentary film Super-Size Me, but there has also been a shift focusing on the ethical sourcing of its ingredients. As a reaction to consumers’ growing interest in local food movements, Mcdonald’s launched their “What we’re made of” campaign in 2011, focusing on the farms and ranches where its food is made. The success of this campaign came not only from allowing people to get a clearer sense of where their food comes from, but also resonated with consumers by putting a face and story behind its suppliers.

A cultural shift towards conscious consumption has put increasing pressure on brands in the food and drinks industry to be transparent, conscientious and socially active in the way they source, produce, package and even dispose of their products. In order to maintain their reputations, both Tesco and McDonald’s have found intelligent ways to please ethically concerned consumers.  

Written by Zara Kletz  18/06/2015

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