Consumers are emphasizing sustainability credentials when purchasing food & beverages, prompting protein supplements manufacturers to bank on ESG metrics. Sustainable packaging, environmental preservation, clean label claims, transparency, ethics & compliance and health have become paramount among sustainability-minded consumers. Plant-based and whey-proteins have garnered popularity among Gen Z and millennials, a trend likely to drive the footprint of sustainable food.

Whey protein has become prevalent among athletes and customers who warrant protein supplements in their diet. Manufacturers, consumers, media and influencers are counting on whey protein powders to foster sustainable food production. Decision-makers seek a crystal clear picture of how protein products will impact the environment, community and governance.

In September 2022, the Good Food Institute (GFI) and FAIRR rolled out an ESG reporting framework for the alternative protein industry. At a time when the world is gearing up for climate accountability, disclosure of the ESG framework could underscore business practices.

Key Companies 

• Glanbia PLC

• MusclePharm

• Abbott

• CytoSport, Inc.

• QuestNutrition

• Transparent Labs

Environmental Perspective

The soaring popularity of protein supplements, including powders, bars and shakes has prompted stakeholders to prioritize their environmental footprint. Global watchdogs, such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), have vouched for sustainable meat production to decarbonize food production and keep up with the demand for protein. In August 2022, an Oxford study deduced that meat alternatives had less than a tenth of the environmental impact of meat-based equivalents.

Forward-looking companies have furthered their efforts to underpin their environmental profile. For instance, in 2022, Glanbia upgraded its scope 1 & 2 emissions reduction targets and aims for 100% recyclable, reusable or compostable packaging by 2030. It has also set the target of a 50% absolute reduction in emissions from operations and a 25% reduction in dairy emissions intensity by 2030. Establishing environmental goals and transitioning to a low-carbon economy will open a unique window of opportunities in the global landscape.

Social Perspective

A sustainable future demands product safety & quality, employee health and well-being, diversity & inclusion, responsible nutrition, animal welfare and fair pricing. In August 2022, Harvard Health Publishing noted that protein powders could contain added sugars and calories. During the year, Clean Label Project claimed in a report that protein powders may contain heavy metals, pesticides or other contaminants linked to cancer or other health issues. With vegans, athletes and adults banking on protein powders to supplement their diets, industry leaders are expected to emphasize consumers’ health & safety to bolster the brand position.

Decision-makers have shown an inclination to attract and retain diverse employees to bolster their ESG performance. For instance, Abbott is gearing up to achieve gender balance with at least 45% female representation across STEM and global management roles. The company is on course to offer one million job and development opportunities by 2030. Commitment to diverse perspectives and ideas will drive innovation and help attain Sustainability plans.

Is your business one of participants to the Protein Supplements Industry? Contact us for focused consultation around ESG Investing, and help you build sustainable business practices

Governance Perspective

Investors, consumers, companies and governments are making informed decisions with good corporate governance practices, regulations, compliance with laws, transparency and board diversity, among others. To illustrate, in 2022, Glanbia updated its anti-bribery and corruption policy to reinforce fraud prevention procedures. Females represent 55.5% of the independent non-executive directors, the company exhorted in its Annual Report and Financial Statements 2022. Meanwhile, Abbott mentioned in its DEI Report 2021 that one-third of the leadership roles were held by people from underrepresented groups, while women accounted for 40% of the global management positions in 2021.

ESG reporting is expected to be pronounced as governments can mandate climate reporting by 2025. For instance, in April 2021, the EU Commission proposed a Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive. In September 2022, Kroger updated its ESG action plan to underscore its strategy and propel sustainable packaging. ESG disclosure, reporting and claims have gained momentum in 2023 and could be prevalent in the ensuing period.

As the industry forays into ESG reporting, incumbent players are slated to inject funds into organic and inorganic strategies that can help them transition their protein portfolios to meet sustainability goals. In 2023, NOW Foods announced shifting its supplement bottles to 100% post-consumer recycled (PCR) resin. The step will enable the natural products company to reuse recycled packaging materials and minimize its carbon footprint. These dynamics suggest the global protein supplements market could depict an 8.5% CAGR through 2030.

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