There is an exciting shift happening in the relationship between consumers and companies—consumers are driving industry change through a higher level of education and awareness when it comes to where they spend their money.
That means we have the power to get what we want; that we can support our health, the environment, and the ethical treatment of people and animals all by what we do and do not buy, especially when it comes to food.
A new generation of consumers focused on transparency, sourcing, production practices, and company values is forcing industries like Big Food and Big Ag to get with the times.
For example, Forbes reports that millennials prefer brands with pro-social messages, ethical business practices, and sustainable manufacturing initiatives. And millennials aren’t the only ones—66% of global consumers say they are willing to pay more for brands who care about sustainability.
We are seeing a unique change in brands repositioning themselves to align with a cultural identity that matches consumer values. Since the foods and beverages we choose to put in our bodies are a reflection of our beliefs, Big Food companies are increasingly working towards more conscious products to meet those demands.
My good friend Vishen Lakhiani is the perfect example of how we can create change in the business of food through education and activism. Vishen grew up in Malaysia and was raised, along with the rest of his generation, on a drink called Milo that was produced by Nestlé.
Though it was marketed as a nutritious beverage that was necessary for growth and used by athletes, Milo was actually loaded with sugar and artificial ingredients and contributed to the obesity epidemic in Malaysia. With just one social media campaign, Vishen exposed Milo for what it was and was joined by thousands of others in demanding healthier alternatives. His efforts made it through to Nestlé, who eventually released a version of Milo without sugar.
This is one example of what we can do as consumers to elicit positive changes for the future of food. If a giant company like Nestlé is willing to listen, there’s no telling who else might.
If you want to hear more about Vishen’s story and the work he’s done to create transformation through education, be sure to listen to our conversation on last week’s episode of The Doctor’s Farmacy.
Wishing you health and happiness,
Mark Hyman, MD