Intentions to eat and live healthily and sustainably are in decline, finds survey

A falling number of consumers intend to eat and live healthily and sustainably, according to a survey spanning 19,642 consumers in 18 European countries. The survey, published by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), also indicates decreasing consumer trust in government authorities connected to the food sector along with low confidence in food and food technology.

Now in its sixth year, the EIT’s Food Trust Report shows a significant decline in 2023 in consumers' intention to eat healthily and sustainably. In 2020 78% of consumers claimed an intent to live sustainably; in the 2023 survey, that number had decreased to 71%. Meanwhile, only 56% of consumers said they intend to eat healthily in 2023, compared to 60% in 2020.

At the same time, there is a gap between the consumers who intend to live sustainably, and the number of consumers who report actually taking this into account when it comes to food choices. Only around 50% claim to consider the sustainability of what they eat, meaning that there is a gap of 21% between intention and action.

The data is more promising when it comes to healthy eating, where more consumers claim to already eat healthily (60%) than say they have the intention to do so (56%). This might be because consumers are more confident when it comes to what foods are healthy than what is sustainable, making it easier for them to eat healthily.

EIT says that the move away from intentions to live sustainably and healthily is “concerning” and that a “more targeted strategy is needed”. The proposed target is young consumers, men, lower-education consumers and those in rural areas – all groups that showed the least intent to eat healthily and/or sustainably.

But in order for industry and governments to be able to impact consumer behaviour, a certain level of trust is needed. If the EIT survey is anything to go by, there is a lot of work to be done here. A whopping 32% of consumers said that they “actively mistrust” government authorities in the food system and only 42% said they consider them to be competent.

In more positive news, consumers expressed a significant trust in farmers, with 65% of consumers saying they trust farmers as a food system actor and 67% considering them competent. Retailers also scored fairly high, with a 50% trust score and a 51% competence score.

According to Sofia Kuhn, director of Public Engagement at EIT Food, “the Trust Report clearly demonstrates that being open and genuinely caring about public interest is where the greatest opportunities lie for all food system actors to increase consumer trust.”

Download the report for more insights:

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