PRESS RELEASE, 3 June 2014
Prof. Grunert presents EUFIC consumer study at Green Week: price and nutritional value come first, while sustainability awareness could influence food choice in the future
Brussels, 3 June 2014, from the European Food Information Council (EUFIC): EUFIC study shows that, when it comes to choosing foods, price and nutritional value come first. But consumer interest in sustainability could influence food choice in the future as awareness of sustainability grows with regards to food. A podcast summarises results to be presented by Prof Klaus Grunert at the European Commission’s Green Week, June 3 – 5.
EUFIC’s pan-European study published February 2014 in the journal Food Policy, determined that awareness of sustainability labels is low among European consumers and plays virtually no role in influencing food choice today. However, as awareness of environmental impact in the food chain grows, consumers could be encouraged to make choices favourable to our environment.
At this month’s ‘Green Week’, the European Commission’s conference on European environment policy, the EUFIC study’s lead expert Prof Klaus Grunert from Aarhus University in Denmark, presents results of the study while panel members debate the respective roles of consumers, farmers, food industry, retailers and policymakers to strengthen the sustainability of our food systems.
The European Commission concluded that consumers need to be empowered to consume more sustainably and has sought to define a sustainable food system in which stakeholders can act. Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, says “Food waste and sustainability need to be addressed at all phases of the production and consumption loop. We need to work together to raise awareness with consumers about the importance of sustainability in relation to food behaviours such as food choice and food waste. Green Week is an opportunity to help facilitate exchange on the respective roles and co-operation of all stakeholders.”
EUFIC’s pan-European study found that consumers have a reasonable understanding of sustainability as a responsible behaviour towards the environment, but they do not tend to have a detailed understanding of the role of sustainability along the food supply chain or of various sustainability labels used on food and drink products. Says Prof Grunert: “Consumers are concerned about sustainability and positive towards green products – but this positive attitude often does not translate into choices in the supermarket.”
In both the online survey of more than 4,400 consumers in 6 European countries (France, Germany, Poland, Sweden, Spain, UK) and in qualitative focus groups, the study determined that concerns about price and nutritional values simply matter more than environmental or ethical issues. Sustainability in the food and drink context was not top of mind.
When asked what information consumers look for on food and drink packages, “environmental impact” and “ethical impact” were among the least selected sources of information. Price and nutritional value featured among the most highly looked-for information. That consumers also routinely looked at ‘best before or use by dates’ and ‘quantity/size’ could signal an opportunity to raise awareness of food waste.
Study participants were also asked to choose between different alternatives of food products from six different product categories: chocolate, coffee, ice cream, breakfast cereals, ready meals and soft drinks. Products within these categories varied in price and nutritional value as well as whether they had environmental and/or ethical labelling, so consumers had to make trade-offs. A high nutritional value was always the most important factor in choosing a product, followed by a low price.
Compared to issues related to health and nutrition, sustainability is more difficult to grasp and therefore does not figure immediately in the consumer mind-set when making food purchases. Focus groups in the study showed that this could change. Professor Grunert concluded that awareness will be raised with “increasing attention to the issue of sustainability with regard to food in public debate, as it has happened with issues of health and nutrition.”
Notes to editors:
“When buying food and drink products, how often do you look for the following information on the packaging?” (Scale: 1=never to 7=always; 4,408 respondents)
Listen to podcast with Prof Grunert discussing conclusions of the pan-European study
About Klaus Grunert
Prof Klaus Grunert, Professor of Marketing at Aarhus University, is the founder and director of the MAPP Center for Research on Customer Relations in the Food Sector. He has done extensive research in the area of consumer behaviour, healthy eating and sustainable choices. As director of MAPP, he has carried out more than 80 collaborative projects and participated in or led numerous EU-funded projects.
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.
EUFIC research is conducted and written up in conjunction with academic experts for submission to and publication in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Other content produced by EUFIC is reviewed by a scientific advisory board and editorial board of academics before publication. EUFIC receives funding from companies in the European food and drink sector, and from the European Commission on a project basis.
Philip.Springuel @ eufic.org