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Consumers More Interested in Food Sustainability Than Ever, Study Shows

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STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • C.O.nxt’s new survey found that consumers consider a sustainable food system to be more important than ever. The definition of “sustainability” also has grown to include social concerns.
  • Eighty percent of the consumers in the survey said that sustainability is important to some degree when choosing which food and beverages to purchase from a supermarket or restaurant.
  • More than half said they are somewhat or significantly more concerned about sustainability than they were last year.

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, consumers have changed their priorities, and some concerns they once had have since become unimportant. But others — such as a sustainable food system — are more important than ever, according to a poll conducted by C.O.nxt. The communications agency found that the definition of the word “sustainability” has grown and now includes social concerns.

C.O.nxt partnered with Menu Matters on the online survey, which polled 750 consumers across the United States. “This research shows that food producers from farms to supermarkets and restaurants must remain transparent in communicating their sustainable practices to customers,” C.O.nxt Chief Growth Officer Mark Gale said.

In the survey, 80% of consumers said that sustainability is important to some degree when choosing which foods and beverages to purchase from a supermarket or a restaurant. In addition, more than half said they are somewhat or significantly more concerned about sustainability than they were last year.

Sustainability also placed high across all segments, but C.O.nxt reports that those of the ages of 18 to 44 rated it the highest, with more than a third ranking it as “extremely important.” The reasons for the increased concern included impacts on food workers, climate change and wildfires. In addition, the increased use of single-use plastics was a high-ranking concern, most likely due to the frequent use of carryout meals during the pandemic, the company says.

C.O.nxt also found that consumers are increasingly connecting sustainability to factors that go beyond the environment, including affordable food, fair wages for workers and humanely raised animals. In addition, nearly 50% of those polled defined sustainability as including social and economic issues, while only 19% said it was exclusively related to the environment.

The survey also showed that more than half of the respondents would “definitely” or “probably” be willing to pay more for greater sustainability efforts on behalf of food and beverage manufacturers and restaurants. In addition, young consumers ranked highest in being willing to pay more. “Pricing research can be tricky,” Gale said.

“Consumers don’t always do what they say,” he added. “But it’s worth noting that younger age groups show high interest in food and sustainability and concern over specific topics. The food system should keep this in mind going forward.”

Click here to read the report.

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