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Food waste, sugar and animal welfare are the top consumer concerns, says new FSA data

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4 min read
AUTHOR: Molly Long
five people dining outside on a summer day, with salad on the table and wine glasses

Consumers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have revealed details about themselves and their buying habits in the Food Standards Agency’s flagship Food and You 2 survey.

According to the data, food waste, the amount of sugar in food, and animal welfare are the three biggest concerns consumers have when shopping and eating. More than half of respondents reported feeling worried with these issues.

These results chime with consumer-facing initiatives and innovations launched by the food industry, like the Oli-Tec smart food label, the Caboodle platform developed by Co-op and Microsoft, and the swathes of reformulated products brought on by incoming HFSS legislation.

Given that food waste and animal welfare rank highly among consumer priorities, it isn’t surprising that one third of respondents to the Food and You 2 survey reported purposely buying food which has a low environmental impact.

When asked what comprised a sustainable diet, half of people said eating fewer processed foods, and 47% thought minimising food waste contributed. Additionally, 59% of people though buying local produce or seasonal foods contributed to a sustainable diet.

However, the survey did also expose a knowledge gap – almost one in 10 respondents (9%) reported not knowing what they could do to have a sustainable diet.

Elsewhere, the data collected by the FSA reported that the overwhelming majority of consumers (92%) were confident food they buy in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is safe to eat.  

Additionally, three quarters (76%) had confidence in the food supply chain. With the data having been collected between October 2021 and January 2022, this percentage may have since changed, given the huge supply chain issues which have plagued much of this year.

The survey also shed light on several topics currently being debated and highlighted by the food industry. According to the Food and You 2 results, more than two thirds (69%) of respondents utilise use-by dates to help them know when food is unsafe to eat.

Another 67% reported always checking use-by dates before cooking or preparing food – showing there is still demand on the consumer side for this information.

Genetically modified food, a hot topic this year following the Government’s legislative action regarding gene editing, also came up. Genetically modified food remains the area which consumers have the most knowledge on – fewer are aware of the details surrounding gene-edited or genome-edited food and 42% revealed that had never heard of these two practices.  

Finally, the report offered a mixed bag when it came to meat alternatives. Around one third of respondents (32%) reported currently eating meat alternatives. One in five (21%) said they used to, but no longer do, and 39% reported never having tried meat alternatives.

Again, this could have or may yet change, especially given the deepening cost-of-living crisis and inflation.

These issues are already impacting the price of meat, and in the Netherlands, plant-based meat alternatives have recently become cheaper than their meat counterparts for the first time. If a similar turn of events happens in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, meat alternatives could become increasingly more attractive.

Speaking on the results of the Food and You 2 survey, FSA Chief Executive Emily Miles said: “As well as giving us an important insight into the FSA’s core responsibility of food safety, Food and You 2 also provides us with a detailed snapshot of peoples’ perceptions and behaviours on food-related issues, including sustainability, food security, and their diets.

“The FSA’s new strategy committed it to helping the governments we serve in Westminster, Wales and Northern Ireland to ensure food is healthier and more sustainable, as well as being safe and what it says it is. This insight is part of the evidence we provide so that consumers’ perspectives on the food they eat are heard.”

With sustainability more important to consumers than ever, this upcoming Masterclass with the Sustainable Restaurants Association is not to be missed:

How to integrate sustainability into your foodservice business

Tuesday 13 September 2022 | 14:00 – 16:00 BST
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