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Driving Behavioural Change in Consumers Through the Food and Grocery Industry

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Driving Behavioural Change in Consumers Through the Food and Grocery Industry

Driving Behavioural Change in Consumers Through the Food and Grocery Industry
March 12
09:25 2020
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IGD research reveals a big appetite from consumers to be healthier and more sustainable in their food choices and consumers are looking for support to make positive changes. Two-thirds (66%) of consumers are already changing their diets or are considering making changes to be healthier and more sustainable. However, consumers are also confused, with most overestimating how healthy and sustainable their diet is.

These are the findings from new research, Appetite for Change, launched by research and training charity IGD. The research explores a subject area around which the food and consumer goods industry and IGD share a joint ambition.

Susan Barratt, CEO of IGD comments: “Working with our colleagues in the industry we hope the Appetite for Change report will provide tangible inspiration to encourage steps towards behavioural change in consumers’ diets.”

Working with behavioural change experts, stakeholders from across retail, manufacturing, catering providers, government and academia and drawing on data from 1,000 UK consumers, the  research found that while many consumers 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.3

Susan Barratt continues: “Our food system sustains us, nourishes us and supports our health and wellbeing. We produce, consume and waste more food than ever before and with the health of the nation and the future security of our environment at risk, how the food system currently operates and delivers requires a significant shift. While the Eatwell Guide provides a useful direction of travel for consumers, we are a long way from meeting this guidance. This new research focuses on consumer behaviour, as we believe the real opportunity comes from changing diets; if we work with our industry to empower and enable consumers, they will help drive the change required.

“Extensive studies have shown that education alone will not change behaviour6, 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. And because the majority (66%) of people in the UK are open to making changes to what they eat and drink, the scale of change can be phenomenal. It is this group of people that, with the help of industry, are actively looking for products and solutions that meet their needs.

“We also identified actions that companies can take for those who have not yet thought about changing their diet, bringing them on the journey by helping to normalise healthier and sustainable choices.”

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%), reducing their intake of meat (39%) and reducing their intake of dairy (23%)4. Consumers who rate their diet between five and seven out of 10 say they are increasing the amount they cook from scratch (58%) and increasing their fruit and vegetable consumption (58%)5.

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

Some 41% 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%), being creatures of habit (18%) and the convenience of their current meal choices and the ease of cooking them (18%).

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:

  1. Ease: Consumers are more likely to take smaller steps towards bigger change, for example adopting ‘meat-free Mondays’
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. Influence: Consumers are looking for inspiring ideas, using recipe cards and online influencers will help motivate and inspire

Susan Barratt adds: “Appetite for Change identifies huge opportunities to start shifting people’s behaviour and recommends next steps the food industry can take in this direction. We all have a role to play, but our impact will be much greater if we come together to drive the change required. We are keen to continue this work with industry and academia to test different approaches and identify the most effective initiatives to drive positive change.”

Industry can use Appetite for Change to help shape strategy, understand which mindset their customers are in and help identify the most relevant solutions. The full and summary reports are available to download at

  1. IGD is a research and training charity which sits at the heart of the food and grocery industry. IGD has a trading subsidiary that provides commercial services; the net profits from these services are invested into its four charitable pillars – People, Health & Wellness, Sustainability and Economic Analysis
  2. Research conducted August – December 2019, includes nationally representative online quantitative survey with 1,000 UK consumers, digital 7-day food diary with 24 people, 6 focus groups and industry workshops
  3. Consumers rated themselves on average 6.3/10 when asked ‘how healthy and sustainable would you say your current everyday eating habits are?’ All consumer groups rated themselves as having a healthier and more sustainable diet than average or 5/10
  4. Consumers who self-reported their diet as 8-10/10 on health and sustainability, 26% of all consumers
  5. Consumers who self-reported their diet as 5-7/10 on health and sustainability
  6.     Balmford, A., Cole, L., Sandbrook, C., Fisher., B 2017. The environmental footprints of conservationists, economists and medics compared. Biological conservation. Volume 214, pages 260-269. Available here.

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