- Quorn has started putting carbon footprint data on 30 of its most popular meatless products sold online, according to The Guardian. Quorn products sold in stores will begin sporting the new labels in June, and they will appear on the U.K. company's entire lineup by next year, the newspaper reported.
- Quorn said on its website that it's the first global meat-free brand to have third-party accreditation of its carbon footprint. The company said in-house experts calculate the carbon dioxide equivalent emissions per kilogram for each product, and the data are then checked and accredited by the Carbon Trust.
- Quorn products saved 200,000 tons of CO2 equivalent in 2018 compared with conventional meat products, The Guardian reported. It added that mycoprotein — the fungi-based protein in Quorn products — has a 90% lower greenhouse gas impact than beef.
Quorn is not the first plant-based manufacturer to emphasize its lower carbon footprint to appeal to sustainability concerns and potentially enhance its market share. According to the Carbon Trust, 61% of consumers are more likely to purchase from firms working to reduce their climate change impact.
Last year, Impossible Foods released a science-based life-cycle assessment of its Impossible Burger recipe. The data indicated it was 89% less than a burger made from real beef. The company's product reduced environmental impacts in every category studied, the company said, resulting in use of 87% less water, 96% less land, 89% fewer greenhouse gas emissions and 92% fewer aquatic pollutants.
Canada's Maple Leaf Foods, which makes both plant-based and regular meat products, said late last year it had become the first major food company to go carbon-neutral. The company committed to setting science-based targets and is working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in its operations and throughout its supply chain.
It's not just meat and plant-based meat companies that have made the commitment. Danone recently pledged to achieve net zero carbon emissions for its Evian water brand by 2020, Lanjarón and Volvic by 2025 and Font Vella by 2030.
However, Quorn may be the first global meatless brand to put third party-certified carbon footprint data on selected product labels. The company's website states that 26% of global greenhouse gas emissions come from food, and more than half of the industry's emissions are due to animal products.
The labels indicate a range of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions (CO2e) per kilogram for certain online products. For example, the label on a 300-gram package of frozen Quorn mince — about 10.5 ounces — shows 1.3 kg CO2e per kilogram of product. In contrast, the company says beef mince contains 27, pork has 8.3, chicken has 5.9 and fish contains 3.9 kg CO2e per kg of product.
Meanwhile, makers of conventional meat and poultry products also have been doing more to tout their achievements in this area in a bid to keep pace with plant-based upstarts and respond to an issue important to consumers. The industry has been working on sustainability best practices as more studies emerge recommending consumers eat less meat to help combat climate change.
Last year, the board of the North American Meat Institute unanimously agreed to make the environmental impact of meat and poultry production a noncompetitive issue among members. NAMI, which represents 95% of red meat processors and 70% of turkey products, is encouraging companies to share sustainability best practices.
Publicizing positive carbon footprint information and life-cycle assessments help to underscore the sustainability benefits of plant-based products versus those from traditional animal-based agriculture. For consumers looking to reduce their meat consumption, lighten their carbon footprint and support cleaner labels and transparency, such action could boost the appeal of these brands.
But that assumes consumers will notice the new labels like those from Quorn, let alone be able to calculate what the information means. At the same time, label overload from too many symbols and claims on product packaging — including non-GMO, gluten-free, low salt, natural, kosher and heart-healthy — could turn off shoppers or simply go unnoticed by even the savviest of them. Plus, not everyone understands what the information and symbols stand for, so manufacturers and retailers might have to expand their marketing efforts to explain anything new.
Other protein companies are likely to wait and see how successful this move on Quorn's part turns out to be before they invest in assessing the carbon footprint impact of individual products and add the information on their labels. But if consumers respond by bumping up the company's sales, there could be more such efforts coming before long.