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New report reveals strong demand for sustainable food from European consumers

young woman with glasses smiling
3 min read
AUTHOR: Fiona Holland
Young woman buying food at farmers market, being served by female business owner.

There is a strong demand for sustainable food from European consumers, with nearly 60% believing climate impact is important when buying food and drinks, a new survey has revealed.

The report, created by international market research firm IPSOS on behalf of fertiliser company Yara International, examined consumer purchasing habits and sustainable food choices.

In the survey, some 51% of Europeans said they would be willing to pay more for fossil-free food items, and over 75% would like to see foods’ carbon footprint on labels.

The survey was conducted using 12,000 consumer respondents from France, Germany, the UK, Ireland, Italy, Romania, Turkey, Spain, Norway, Denmark, and Sweden.

When breaking down the data, some countries showed a preference for making more sustainable choices than others. Poland, Italy, Turkey, Romania, and Spain were the most likely to see climate impact as being ‘very’ or ‘quite important’ when buying food and drink, while Norway and Denmark were the least likely to be affected by climate impact while grocery shopping.

Respondents from Turkey, Italy, Romania, Poland, and Spain were also the most likely to be willing to pay a premium for fossil fuel-free food items, while those in Denmark, UK, and Norway were the least likely to pay a higher cost for such products. Norway and Sweden also had more respondents saying food production’s impact on global emissions would not affect the way they buy food.

With the ongoing cost of living and food security crisis in the UK forcing many people to change their shopping habits and prioritise low-cost items, it is likely a great number aren’t currently able to afford to pay a premium on food, even if it is better for the environment.

Denmark, Sweden and Norway also had the lowest percentage of respondents believing that current legislation around greenhouse gas emissions should be stricter. Such findings are surprising given the reputation Nordic countries have for being sustainable (Denmark and Sweden rank first and fifth on the Environmental Performance Index). It is worth noting however these countries have stricter emission reduction targets in place than some others – Denmark has committed to using 100% renewable energy by 2050, Sweden has one of the highest carbon taxes worldwide, and since Norway launched its Climate Budget for Oslo in 2017, the city council has only been able to approve spending plans that align with the city’s climate target. With much legislation in place, it is possible that some residents are more confident in how their countries are reducing emissions in comparison to other Europeans.

Despite ranking lower than other nations for sustainable choices in some of the survey questions, over 70% of respondents from the UK, Sweden and Denmark did feel that farmers growing food responsibly should be incentivised to reduce carbon emissions. The majority of respondents from these countries also said food producers should work to reduce their carbon emissions from food production, and that they would like to see the carbon footprint of food items on labelling.

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