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Trends in food communication #GFS20 - Urban Circular Food Economy: Do actions really speak louder than words?

Both, the ongoing digitalisation as well as increasing awareness levels around sustainability pose great challenges to the food industry. However, new, technology-driven concepts such as the “Urban Circular Economy” offer a way out. For those who are not familiar with the term: Wikipedia describes circular economy as ‘a regenerative system in which resource use and waste production, emissions and energy waste are minimised by slowing down, reducing and closing energy and material cycles’.

But, as a prerequisite, such innovations can only gain traction within societies if they are communicated effectively. Initiatives and congresses such as the Global Food Summit take over a decisive function in this context. The key theme of the upcoming Global Food Summit 2020 is, therefore, the “Urban Circular Food Economy”.
Ubermetrics is pleased to support the Global Food Summit as a media partner for the second year running: Ubermetrics will monitor and analyse the public communication around the congress’ main topics and will also identify related trends, topics as well as key influencers.

Over a period of three months (July - September 2019), Ubermetrics monitored and analysed the entire German- and English-speaking communication around the key topics of the Global Food Summit. In total, more than 55,000 articles, videos, pictures, comments, press releases as well as tweets and other mentions in digital and social media were evaluated with the following results:

‘Climate action’ and ‘sustainability’ are the main topical drivers of the discussion around the circular economy
The circular economy is now a core component of the European Union’s “2050 Long-Term Strategy” for a climate-neutral Europe and also forms part of China’s 5-year-plan, currently in force. This development is also reflected within the public discourse around the circular economy: The majority of all mentions show a clear connection to the topics climate, climate action and sustainability. Here are some examples that also cover the current climate movement, the Climate Week NYC 2019 as well as the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in New York:


The communication around ‘Urban Circular Food Economy’ is predominantly positive
Overall, quantitatively, the topic ‘Urban Circular Food Economy’ was not widely discussed in the period under observation. However, the communication that did happen, was predominantly positive: more than two thirds of all mentions (67%) were positive. Many of these discussions centered on the potentially positive effects of the circular economy, particularly around protecting our climate. This article by the New York Times exemplifies this pattern - it also generated further positive feedback on social media:

Institutions actively support the circular economy, but fail to communicate effectively
Many public institutions and associations - such as the UN, the European Commission and others - are actively working on realising various aspects of the circular economy as demonstrated by the recent UN Climate Summit or the “Local Sustainability Programme” of the city of Helsinki.

However, public institutions are not really driving the discussion around the circular economy. There are only a handful, mostly factual contributions such as press releases, reports, studies and news updates all of which do not seem to resonate with larger parts of society such as the below:

This appears to be an established principle: Just like in our previous analysis (“AI in the food industry”), there seems to be no structured communication in place by these institutions and these struggle, therefore, to support awareness, acceptance and adoption of innovations effectively.