From naturally pest-resistant grains to vitamin-rich flowers and drought-defying roots, they outline 50 nutritious foods that are better for our health and environment.
In the latest in a string of recent research highlighting “hidden killers” in our food system and the urgent need for more “Earth-Functional Foods,” WWF-UK has partnered with Knorr, Unilever’s largest food brand and one of the largest in the world, to help tackle the negative environmental impacts of global food production. Together, they’ve launched The Future 50 Foods report, a collection of diverse, plant-based foods from around the world that can boost the nutritional value of our meals whilst reducing the environmental impact of our food supply.
As Unilever points out, globally, we rely on a dangerously small number of ingredients for our staple diet — the FAO has revealed that 75 percent of the global food supply comes from just 12 crops and five animal species, yet there are more than 20,000 known edible plant species worldwide.
This negatively impacts our health — a lack of dietary diversity makes it more difficult to get all the vitamins and minerals we need — as well as the planet, as monoculture poses a threat to food security and makes our food system less resilient to pests or the impacts of climate change.
It’s also linked to a decline in plant and animal diversity, with grave consequences for our fragile natural ecosystems. WWF’s Living Planet Report, published in October, found that our food system is the biggest driver of biodiversity loss on the planet, causing more environmental damage than transport or energy.
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So, Knorr and WWF teamed up with leading scientists, nutritionists and agricultural experts to compile the Future 50 Foods report, which showcases 50 nutritious, plant-based ingredients — some familiar, others less so — selected based on their nutritional value and relative impact on the environment.
Following on a partnership launched late last year with UK retailer Tesco, through the Knorr partnership WWF is continuing its efforts to inspire chefs, retailers and shoppers to adopt a greater variety of plant-based ingredients. The report combines some familiar ingredients — such as lentils, wild rice and kale — with lesser-known foods including fonio, pumpkin flowers and cactus. Many of these have higher yields than the crops we currently rely on, and several are more resilient to challenging weather and environmental conditions, making them prime candidates for helping to reduce the land required for crops and prove invaluable in the face of growing climate uncertainty.
“We are a 180-year-old brand and have been committed to sustainability for just under a decade,” Knorr’s Global VP, April Redmond, told Marketing Week. “We haven’t really talked very much about it, so this is our opportunity to talk about what we’re doing to help the people we serve and make food better for them and the planet. Because of our scale, we can make food available to a lot of different types of people at many different levels within society. We’re trying to use the opportunity that Unilever presents, but also a big brand like Knorr presents, to convene action around this very important issue.”
Knorr says that, through its products, promotions and programs, its goal is to make these foods more accessible and appealing for audiences all over the world — the brand is working with leading retailers to ensure that a wider variety of plant-based foods are made available. And Knorr chefs have been experimenting with each of the 50 ingredients, to create recipes that will be shared online and in stores globally, to make choosing these foods tasty, easy and exciting for consumers.
“Unless we change the foods we eat and the way we grow them, it will be challenging to have enough food to feed us all well,” Redmond says. “Our ambition is to make it easier for people to eat a wider variety of foods that are good for us, good for the planet, and of course delicious at the same time.”