young people eating

Two thirds of consumers are already changing their diets or considering making changes to be healthier and more sustainable, according to new IGD research.

Nevertheless, consumers are also confused, with most overestimating how healthy and sustainable their diet is. These are the findings of a new report entitled Appetite for Change by the research and training charity.

Its chief executive Susan Barratt said: “The research found that while many understand the principles of a balanced diet, the reality of what they eat doesn’t reflect this, resulting in a gap between knowledge and action.

“Consumer food diaries, completed as part of IGD’s research, show that the balance of food groups people consume were not aligned with public health recommendations set out in the national dietary guidelines, The Eatwell Guide.

“Extensive studies have shown that education alone will not change behaviour, which is why we have collaborated with behaviour change experts and a wide range of stakeholders to understand how, together, we can advocate and support consumers on this journey.”

The research reveals that consumers fall into three mindsets: those who are making changes to be healthy and more sustainable, those who are considering it, and those who see no reason to change.

“Since the majority (66 per cent) of people in the UK are open to making changes to what they eat and drink, the scale of change can be phenomenal,” said Barratt.

According to the research, it is this group of people that, with the help of industry, is actively looking for products and solutions that meet their needs.

Those consumers who rate the health and sustainability of their diets as eight or more out of 10 say some of the actions they are taking include increasing their intake of plant-based foods (42 per cent), reducing their intake of meat (39 per cent) and reducing their intake of dairy (23 per cent).

While health is the primary driver for 58 per cent of consumers to make improvements to their diet, concern for the environment is growing, especially among younger consumers. Almost a quarter (22 per cent) of 18-24-year-olds are motivated by concerns about the environment to pursue a sustainable and healthy diet.

Some 41 per cent of consumers perceive healthy and sustainable eating to be more expensive, making this the biggest barrier to change.

Other barriers include liking the taste of their current diet (19 per cent), being creatures of habit (18 per cent) and the convenience of their current meal choices and the ease of cooking them (18 per cent).

IGD has identified practical steps the food and grocery industry can take to encourage behaviour change for each of the different mindsets based around five core principles:

Ease:Consumers are more likely to take smaller steps towards bigger change, for example adopting ‘meat-free Mondays’

Signposting:Retailers need to use eye-catching signs to make the right choices easy and clearly highlight the benefits of healthy and sustainable products over any perceived negatives

Placement:Positioning healthy and sustainable products in prime positions in-store, for example plant-based options next to meat options, will encourage shoppers to browse and experiment

Product:Ensure healthy and sustainable options are appealing and inspiring, so that a plant-based meat alternative becomes an easy switch, offering convenience and familiarity

Influence:Consumers are looking for inspiring ideas, using recipe cards and online influencers will help motivate and inspire

The full and summary reports are available to download