Consumers are becoming “educated eaters" as they add sustainability to a growing list of considerations when choosing foods.
Consumers are adding sustainability to a growing list of considerations that include nutrition, provenance and fair labor practices, and looking for products and brands that can meet all these criteria simultaneously. As a result, they’re becoming “educated eaters,” learning how food is cultivated, raised or caught. In the three years since we first surveyed American and British consumers on this issue, significantly fewer now express uncertainty about how to make food choices that benefit the environment, as this chart shows.
In 2011, about half of U.S. and U.K. respondents said they were unsure about how to eat sustainably, whereas in 2014, around 4 in 10 respondents felt unsure. In some regions, however, a majority of consumers feel under-educated on this score. Across the 12 markets we surveyed last September and October—a total of 6,063 adults in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Greece, India, Italy, Japan, Thailand, the U.K. and the U.S.—respondents in the Asian markets, as well as Colombia, were most likely to say they don’t know how to make environmentally beneficial food choices.
As we note in Food As the New Eco-Issue, one of the themes in our report 10 Years of 10 Trends, awareness of sustainability issues around the food system is rising thanks in part to the organic and local food movements, documentaries such as Food, Inc. and the recent Just Eat It, and activist campaigns from organizations like Greenpeace and Oxfam. “Food is now politics and ethics as much as it is sustenance,” observed John Lanchester in a recent New Yorker piece. And as healthy and responsible eating become intertwined and move from the marginal to the mass, foods aligned with this trend are getting repositioned as aspirational for sophisticated Millennial audiences.