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Eco-conscious consumers, and their thirst for transparency and innovative food production and waste, are igniting a new food order, where conventional business models must embrace radical product development and avant-garde ways of thinking.

Shrewd supermarkets are stoking consumer appetite for conscious shopping environments with hydroponic underground bunkers - as seen from Ocado and Growing Underground, and on-site grown produce - Delhaize will soon start selling fruit & veg grown on the roof of its Boondael store. It’s already proving successful - Brazilian supermarket Zona Sul reported an 18% rise in produce sales after enabling shoppers to pick produce in-store from ‘fresh garden’ troughs.

Catering to a diverse pool of demographics can seem intimidating, but innovation can also be incremental. Within the past week, Morrisons has added asparagus to its wonky fruit & veg range, and announced it will be giving away used coffee grounds to gardeners. Danish supermarket WeFood sells ‘expired’ and blemished items at 30%-50% less than regular grocers.

Pursuing ambitious, eco-friendly ventures that rethink the traditional supply chain and boost proactive ethical brand values is positioning these retailers as thought leaders. But there’s still much more to be explored.

As accountability becomes expectation, brands and retailers will be left with little room for malpractice. Pressure to seduce this growing segment of eco-conscious consumers will mount.

Brands should look at this as an opportunity and reposition waste not only as palatable, but also highly desirable. Edible by-products can be re-crafted as luxury eats, sustainable beauty lines or low or no-impact packaging solutions. Slick branding and packaging will help brands achieve a high-end look and feel.

Sustainability comes in all shapes and sizes. A complete zero packaging, harvest-on-site, ethical sourcing programme may not be feasible for all, but every little counts. Brands should choose one aspect of their business that could do with a green makeover, and don’t be limited by conventional thinking.

Mandy Saven is head of food, beverage & hospitality at Stylus