In an age of convenience and immediate gratification, more and more consumers are looking for the quickest ways of getting everything, and food is no exception. Subscription boxes of all types have risen in popularity over the past few years, and millennials are relying on meal kits to save time, become better acquainted with new ingredients, and even reduce the amount of waste produced.

Here, we’ll look at how food subscription boxes in particular are leading a change in sustainable consumer behaviour.

Meat-free options are encouraging consumers to eat less meat

Cutting back on meat is a massive step towards sustainability. In fact, recent research found that by cutting out meat and dairy completely, global farmland can be reduced by over 75% and still be able to feed the world. However, this is easier said than done. Most consumers often don’t think twice about the food they’re eating on a daily basis, often sticking to familiar “meat and two veg” dishes rather than branching out to tastes outside of their comfort zone. By making alternative ingredients more accessible to customers, more eco-friendly recipes could become the norm.

Food subscription boxes can help with this, as they allow subscribers to pick what foods they want delivered, introducing consumers to a meat-free life while still appealing to those who already have vegetarian, pescatarian or vegan diets. For example, cheese subscription box provider The Cheese Geek offer customers the choice to have only vegetarian cheeses. Finding out there are many non-vegetarian cheeses could be a shock for some — did you know that parmesan isn’t vegetarian?!

Meanwhile, meal-prep boxes are rising in popularity thanks to the backing of celebrities like Chrissy Teigen. It’s simple really. Customers receive deliveries of recipe cards along with everything they need to make quick, healthy meals. Companies such as Gousto offer a range of vegan options every week, which rotate to avoid cooking the same recipe twice. This reduces the need for customers to go out and buy food, encouraging subscribers to try new food and cut back on their meat intake.

Food subscription boxes are cutting down on food waste

The beauty of having a subscription box is that you get sent just enough food to last you until the next box arrives. Or, in the case of meals, you get sent enough to last you for the number of servings you’ve requested. This can massively help to reduce the amount of food that is wasted in the UK every year—which, according to Wrap, is around 10 million tonnes. On top of this, the charity believes that 70% of this wasted food could have been avoided. And it’s not just purchased food that is wasted in the home. Fruit and vegetable farmers waste up to 37,000 tonnes of produce every year—around 16% of their crop—usually rejecting it for cosmetic reasons, such as colour, shape, and size.

Subscription service Oddbox is aiming to overcome this. The business works by buying these “wonky” fruits and vegetables, creating boxes of produce to deliver straight to customers at home or at work, on a weekly or fortnightly basis. This ensures less-than-perfect fruits and vegetables are still used, and has managed to save 151 tonnes of fresh produce so far. The startup also donates a percentage of the produce to charities, in order to help feed the homeless and supply foodbanks with fresh fruit and veg. Produce boxes also tend to focus on fruits and vegetables that are currently in season, eliminating the carbon footprint that would be involved by transporting produce from other countries.

Food subscription boxes are becoming recyclable

As subscribers are introduced to new foods, whether it’s with standalone produce boxes or meal kits, they’re more likely to keep using them to make a meal. Even the most novice of chefs can whip up a gourmet meal with the easy-to-follow instructions, and are encouraged to use ingredients they normally wouldn’t try. This has a knock-on effect: making a meal from scratch, even if it’s just once, could provide the confidence to go out and buy raw ingredients rather than pre-packaged ready meals that often rely on plastic.

The plight of our oceans and the environmental devastation caused by plastic has been widely documented lately. The human impact is huge, plastic has become part of the food chain. Food subscription boxes are also reducing the amount of plastic packaging waste produced from ready meals. One of the largest meal kit subscription services, HelloFresh, has designed their packaging to be as recyclable as possible in all the countries it operates. Now, more businesses across the industry are working on cutting down how much waste they produce, making the packaging as sustainable as they can.

As food subscription boxes begin to dominate the market, consumers could be on the way to becoming more sustainable than ever before. Whether by cutting down the amount of meat and dairy consumed on a daily basis, or by buying fresh produce to cut down on food and plastic waste, subscribers are leading the way to a sustainable future.

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