Great interest in sustainability – but not in foods

A new study conducted by MAPP at Aarhus University shows that consumers in Europe are very concerned about the environment. But this concern does not show when they go shopping for groceries.

2014.03.18 | Lillian Hasslund

Consumers in Europe are not too concerned with buying sustainable food brands. This does not mean that there is no future in sustainable brands, but it is going to take a long, hard battle for the manufacturers to get consumers to buy these food brands.

"Generally, consumers are very concerned about the state of the environment, but this concern is not nearly as evident in the consumers’ grocery shopping habits," says Klaus G. Grunert, who is centre director at MAPP - Centre for Research on Customer Relations in the Food Sector at Aarhus University.

Fair Trade is most commonly known

The results derive from a new study conducted by MAPP in collaboration with the European Food Information Council. The study focuses on the correlation between consumer information, understanding and the consumption of sustainable food brands. 4,408 people from six European countries participated in the study, which was focused on four specific sustainable brands: Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance, Carbon Footprint and Animal Welfare.

The participants expressed a medium to high level of concern about sustainable topics in general, but a somewhat lower level of concern about choosing sustainable food products. The study also shows that our understanding of the concept of sustainability surrounding food products is limited, and that the sustainable brands are not particularly well-known – with the exception of the Fair Trade brand and the sustainable coffee brands.

Barriers preventing future developments

"There are currently two barriers that may prevent consumers from buying sustainable brands in the future. One is the lack of knowledge of the actual brands. The other is the consumers’ purchasing habits. While it is possible to increase awareness of the brands through intensive marketing, it is much more difficult to change the consumer’ purchasing habits," says Klaus G. Grunert.

The manufacturers are entirely aware of the consumers’ attitudes, and they know they will be facing slow progress in making the consumers switch to sustainable brands. Klaus G. Grunert does not believe that consumers alone can turn the development around. Another way forward could be if the retailers start demanding more from the manufacturers, so that the sustainable brands become more widely known and come to seem more reliable to consumers.

Further information

Professor and Director of MAPP Klaus G. Grunert
Aarhus University
Department of Business Administration
Direct tel.: +45 8716 5007
Mobile: +45 4038 5319

Read more about the study her:













Research news