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Abstract of poster presentation at the IFST Jubilee Conference 2014

Abstract of poster presentation at the Institute of Food Science and Technology (IFST) Jubilee Conference 2014, May 14-15, London, UK.


European consumers’ response to sustainability labelling on food and drink packaging


Grunert KG1, Hieke S2, Wills J2, Palascha A2


1 Aarhus University, Denmark

2 European Food Information Council, Brussels, Belgium


Study/research aims:
This study investigates the meaning and relevance of sustainability for consumers in the context of food choice. Familiarity with and understanding of environmental and ethical labels found on food and drink products were assessed, as well as the influence of sustainability information on consumer food choice and purchase behaviour. Possible trade-offs between environmental and ethical information against other purchase criteria when buying food were also taken into account.


Study/research methods and results:
A web-based survey among 4,408 men and women aged 18-65 was conducted in six European countries accompanied by focus group discussions. The questionnaire covered the following topics: general food and drink buying habits, understanding and concern towards sustainability-related topics, familiarity and understanding of certain sustainability labels, information search behaviour concerning sustainability issues, and impact of sustainability labels on food choice. In addition, a choice-based conjoint task was administered, in which respondents had to choose one among a set of four product alternatives involving the following attributes: environmental label (Fair Trade, Animal Welfare), ethical label (Rainforest Alliance, Carbon Footprint), nutritional value (high, medium, low) and price (regular, +/- 10%).


This pan-European survey provides evidence that consumers are familiar with and show concern about sustainability and social awareness issues. However, results show that sustainability labels are less important when shopping compared to price and nutritional value. This could change when sustainability issues in the context of food and drink become more prominent in the public debate, as it has happened with issues of health and nutrition.


Significance of study:
To date, only a few studies have looked at the broader picture of environmental and ethical labelling. There remain considerable gaps in our knowledge on consumer understanding, perception & attitude, as well as possible effects on purchase and consumption behaviour. This research addresses these concerns on a pan-European scale.


The poster can be found in this link.


Further references:

  1. EUFIC (2014). Sustainability and Social Awareness Labelling – A pan-European study on consumer attitudes, understanding and food choice. EUFIC Forum n° 6. (Accessed 2nd May 2014)
  2. Dutra de Barcellos, M., Krystallis, A., de Melo Saab, S.M., Kügler, J.O., Grunert, K.G., 2011. Investigating the gap between citizens’ sustainability attitudes and food purchasing behaviour: empirical evidence from Brazilian pork consumers. Int. J. Consum. Stud. 35, 391–402
  3. Grunert, K.G., 2011. Sustainability in the food sector: a consumer behaviour perspective. Int. J. Food Sys. Dyn. 2, 207–218
The European Food Information Council (EUFIC) is a non-profit organisation which communicates science-based information on nutrition and health, food safety and quality, to help consumers to be better informed when choosing a well-balanced, safe and healthful diet.

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