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World Food Day Q3 2022

How top food brands can transform 40% of our agricultural land

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Reniera O’Donnell

Food Initiative Lead, Ellen MacArthur Foundation

Food brands and supermarkets have the power to make nature-positive food the norm. Rather than bending nature to produce food, food can be designed for nature to thrive.

Everything we eat has been designed by brands and supermarkets. They decide and design how our food looks and tastes, its nutritional value, and its impact on nature. Many of these players are part of a problem that now sees almost a third of all food production wasted and nearly 10% of the world’s population go hungry. 

However, their size, influence, and the opportunities presented by a circular economy means they can become part of the solution and redesign food that is not only nutritious but allows nature to thrive. 

Benefits of a circular economy

We are currently locked into a system that is destroying our environment and cannot work in the long term. Industrial farming has turned agriculture into a leading source of greenhouse gas emissions and pollution, and it’s driving the extinction of many species.

In stark contrast, the circular economy is driven by design to eliminate waste and pollution, circulate products and materials, and regenerate nature. This presents leading brands and supermarkets with the massive opportunity to create a circular design-led approach that ensures we work with nature, not against it.  

By rethinking the ingredients they use and how they’re produced, food designers can provide choices that are better for customers, farmers, and the environment.

The circular design for food allows us to unlock substantial environmental, economic, and yield benefits by combining regenerative production with three other selection and sourcing opportunities for ingredients that are diverse, upcycled, and lower impact. While each opportunity brings its own benefits for people and nature, these are maximised when the opportunities are combined.

Rethinking product design

Redesigning their product portfolios in this way and applying circular economy principles across all aspects of food design—including product concept, ingredient selection and sourcing, and packaging—will allow brands and supermarkets to not only create but meet growing consumer demand for more products that have a positive impact.

People are calling for meaningful solutions to global challenges. Shifting our food system to be circular by design is one of the most powerful things we can do to tackle climate change, build biodiversity, and eliminate food waste.

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