An executive for one of the world’s largest food processors believes population growth will require human diets to adapt and reduce the consumption of sugar, salt and meat.
“We have 7.5 billion people and the population continues to grow, so there is a need to eat more vegetables, cereals, and less sugar, meat products,” said Laurent Freixe, Executive Vice President and head of Nestle’s operations in the Americas.
Freixe says production and consumption of sugar, salt and meat products strains already limited natural resources on the planet and contributes to the growing public health problem of obesity. He also cited growing public awareness of the food production process as well as issues such as child labor and deforestation, which is especially pertinent in Brazil.
Meat production, particularly beef, is a significant contributor to carbon emissions that scientists blame for global warming.
Freixe also said public awareness is growing around the world regarding raw materials used to produce food. This poses a challenge for every large food processor.
Nestlé is a major buyer worldwide of coffee, sugar, cocoa and milk, among other commodities.
“There is a lot more sensitivity on the matter everywhere, not only in Europe or the U.S. We are in a connected world, people have access to information, consumers want to know where raw materials come from and whether they were produced ethically,” he said.
The company says it clearly states to suppliers that it does not buy raw materials that were produced in recently deforested areas or where child labor has been reported.
“The question mark is how to make that happen? Because there are millions of farmers in so many countries,” the executive said. “When there is an indication of a problem, we investigate. If confirmed, we cut the supplier,” he added.
Forest fires and deforestation in the Amazon, the world’s largest rainforest, jumped sharply this year, causing a wave of worldwide criticism regarding how the local government is managing the situation.
Global food companies were also pressed by consumers and activists to avoid sourcing commodities from places where forests were recently cleared.