Consumers push for more sustainable food options across the Middle East

Consumers push for more sustainable food options across the Middle East

Consumers push for more sustainable food options across the Middle East
People shop for the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan at the Shorja wholesale market in central Baghdad, Iraq. (Reuters/File)
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Mindful consumption is critical to our future. People are now more invested in seeking assurances that their food is created through a sustainable and positive value chain.

Today, as consumers become more conscious of what they eat and how they eat it, socially conscious snacking and dining are becoming the status quo. Buying food, therefore, is increasingly driven by responsible and positive choices. One example is a strong demand for local and sustainable produce grown in a way that benefits both the planet and people. At PepsiCo, we refer to this as “positive agriculture.”

The world is moving toward offering autonomy and freedom of choice on the plates of consumers, through community-led awareness and citizen-led innovations, accompanied by the rapid rise in food technology. As food security becomes a growing concern for governments and citizens around the world, conversations about democratizing food chains have become widespread.

The key to more responsible food is to revisit recipes, identify scope for innovation, and ensure that we maximize the secondary use of leftovers. It is critical to ask ourselves how we can make our food systems more resilient, self-sufficient, and responsible.

We are committed to putting human capital at the center of our goals for sustainability, as we aim to create shared value and growth for the planet and its people. After all, we are an agricultural company at our core, and a steady, sustainable supply of crops has always been central to our business. That is why we believe there has never been a more challenging yet exciting time to transform and redefine the food ecosystem, including our role in it.

To harvest local potential, we need to address the science of what’s possible, as well as the art and creativity of the dish. More than ever, it is necessary now to take up entrepreneurial efforts, be it at the corporate or the community level, to find better ways of sourcing quality products, extending a products’ shelf life, and encouraging responsible consumption.

That is why we have launched the Food for Thought campaign designed to help mobilize the conversation around sustainable food systems. Through this initiative, we invite stakeholders from all walks of life, from actors and influencers to farmers to food scientists, from entrepreneurs to agriculturalists, to join the discussion and help to drive meaningful change.

In the Middle East, we have a challenging task to move the climate change agenda ahead of other pressing and competing priorities. We also have a golden opportunity as Egypt and the UAE prepare to host two successive Conference of the Parties climate change meetings, COP 27 in November and COP 28 next year, respectively. It is imperative to leverage these two critical gatherings to accelerate progress on the broader sustainability discussion, lift local stories and bring to the forefront some of the great work led by communities across the region.

PepsiCo. in the Middle East has already publicized its bold aspirations that now sit at the heart of our business, and we have made good progress so far. However, more needs to happen. We have accelerated collection and recycling programs in Saudi Arabia, UAE, Lebanon, and Jordan and hope to extend similar initiatives to other countries in 2022.

To further empower innovation, we have launched our Middle East and North Africa Green House Accelerator Program, which works with entrepreneurs to develop green packaging, in partnership with the Ministry of Climate Change in the UAE and its Food Tech Valley agricultural research project. We have now shortlisted ten companies and look forward to the impact they will have in helping the region deliver on the agenda. In Saudi Arabia, we work closely with farmers to conserve water and introduce other best practices to embed regenerative agriculture at the heart of this change.

We are proud of our historically deep roots in the Middle East, and we are committed to making meaningful positive change. The launch of these campaigns are pathways along this journey that will provide a platform for creative and passionate voices from the Middle East, which will help inspire action.

• Eugene Willemsen is Chief Executive Officer or Pepsico Africa, Middle East, South Asia.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point of view