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Food consumption behaviours in Europe Mapping drivers, trends and pathways towards sustainability

Mariana Nicolau; Luis Esquivel; Imke Schmidt; Cristina Fedato; Lea Leimann; Antonella Samoggia; Francesca Monticone; Margherita Del Prete; Rino Ghelfi; Nina M. Saviolidis; Gudrun Olafsdottir; Hildigunnur Sigurdardottir; Pierre-Marie Aubert; Elise Huber; Paulus Aditjandra; Carmen Hubbard; Arijit De; Matthew Gorton; Lukas Cechura; Sigurdur Gretar Bogason; Laura Brimon; James Odene; David Schamari

Why do European consumers buy food the way they do? Which key factors drive Europeans’ food consumption patterns and how could they be used to create pathways toward sustainability? The VALUMICS project’s evidence-based report provides insights to what influences consumers the most in their food choices.

The report ‘Food consumption behaviours in Europe’ brings together data across various countries, such as the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Italy. Through in-depth literature research, focus groups and expert consultations, the report provides a better understanding of the status quo, trends, motivations as well as barriers and opportunities towards more sustainable food consumption behaviours in general. The focus is on five product categories: Beef, dairy, salmon, tomatoes and bread.

Findings indicate that food consumption behaviours can be largely attributed to price considerations, family eating habits, health concerns or social contexts of consumers. The report highlights that environmental awareness and values play little to no role in the consumption patterns.

“Certain changes can only be made by politics, or the EU in this case, which should impose high sustainability limits and standards: for example, banning disposable plastics is a good start. Until certain management practices are allowed, it is difficult to behave more sustainably because everyone else can be more economically competitive” noted one of the experts interviewed for the report.

Other actions suggested in the report include fostering stronger communication channels between producers and consumers, with the potential for increasing the resilience of food value chains as well as using behavioural insights to inform strategies and action plans for more sustainable food consumption.

The report ’Food consumption behaviours in Europe’ is the first in a series of VALUMICS publications focusing on analysing food consumption. The upcoming reports look into successful interventions for sustainable food behaviour, multi-stakeholder recommendations toward more sustainable food consumption, and food retailer interventions to support this shift.

Nicolau, M., Esquivel, L., Schmidt, I., Fedato, C., Leimann, L., Samoggia, A., Monticone, F., Prete, D.M., Ghelfi, R., Saviolidis, M.N., Olafsdottir, G., Sigurdardottir, H., Aubert, P.M., Huber, E., Aditjandra, A., Hubbard, C., De, A., Gorton, M., Čechura, L., Bogason, G.S., Brimont, L., Odene, J. & Schamari, D. Report on (2021) Food consumption behaviours in Europe. Mapping drivers, trends and pathways towards sustainability. VALUMICS "Understanding Food Value Chains and Network Dynamics", funded by European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme GA No 727243. Deliverable: D6.1, CSCP, Germany, 87 pages.
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