Two weeks after the European Commission presented its blueprint for sustainable food and farming, a new study shows that consumers are willing to switch to more sustainable diets but, in order to do so, they need sustainable food choices to become easier.
The European study of 11,000 consumers coordinated by BEUC, the EU Consumer Organization, found that two-thirds of people are willing to change their diets for environmental reasons. Many are willing to waste less food at home, buy more seasonal fruit and vegetables and eat more plant-based and traditional vegetarian foods such as pulses. However, consumers say that decreasing their dairy consumption, eating less red meat and spending more money on sustainably produced food is more of a challenge.
Over one-third of consumers (38.9%) would support regulations requiring farmers and food producers to meet more stringent sustainability standards. Even more (53%) agree that farmers should be given incentives (such as through subsidies) to produce food more sustainably.
However, the study found that significant barriers stand in the way of consumers acting on their sustainable intentions. Price, lack of knowledge, unclear information and limited choice are what most consumers say prevent them from eating more sustainably. More than half (57%) want sustainability information to be compulsory on food labels (the Commission is proposing mandatory front-of-pack nutrition labelling as part of Farm to Fork) while the majority think their government needs to do more to promote sustainable food production and consumption.
Commenting on the research findings, Monique Goyens, Director General of BEUC, said, “Change must be rolled out at several levels to make the sustainable choice the obvious choice.
“Consumers are hungry for improved information on food labels and a wider range of sustainable options. But our individual choices as consumers can only do so much to transform food habits in the way experts urge us to. Regulators, food producers, and retailers have a crucial role to play to adjust pricing, marketing, and every other factor that push us to buy one food product over another.”
The survey was conducted online across 11 EU countries in October and November 2019. Questions were administered to panels of slightly over 1,000 respondents per country who were representative of the national population. The data was analyzed by Belgian consumer organization Test Achats/Test Aankoop.
Read more about the research.
Download the report (pdf).