Supermarkets look to sustainability as the next organic

Giant Food, a supermarket chain based in Landover, Maryland has partnered with HowGood, a research organization that has compiled a database of over 200,000 food products and rated them on different traits of sustainability. The main part of the program is the placement of a tag next to price tags in the store rating them as Good, Great or Best regarding sustainability. Stores like Whole Foods have had different sustainability programs for their fish, meat, and cleaning products in place for a while, but this initiative by HowGood seems to be one of the first sustainability programs targeted at the average consumer. A grocery analyst referenced in the article called 2017 “the year of sustainability,” predicting and increase in consumers seeking out sustainable foods, in a similar way that the demand for organic food has grown in recent years. This trend towards sustainable foods will be driven by consumers, with more major retailers embracing it to accommodate rising demand.

I have no doubt that increasing the portion sustainably produced food would be beneficial to the environment and our general wellbeing. However, as it is a relatively new concept, all the standards and certifications at the moment are set by different non-governmental organizations. Labels like Fairtrade and Rainforest Alliance are widely recognized, but without a nationally enforced standard like that of “organic” (overseen by a division of the USDA), I feel that sustainable labeling has the potential to become a marketing ploy, with companies making relatively negligible changes in the supply chain and advertising foods as “sustainable”. That being said, I think this is a step in the right direction, and it will be interesting to see where the market for sustainable food goes in the future.

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