We were delighted to read a new report from the Behavioural Insights Team showing that UK consumers are increasingly interested in sustainable choices.

The 2023 report ('How to Build a Net-Zero Society') features a list of recommendations for businesses and policymakers in the UK, aimed at encouraging a net-zero approach across a variety of sectors: public communications, domestic heat and power, transport, food, consumption and waste. 

This new research suggests that public attitudes are broadly very supportive of strong leadership from policymakers and industry in helping people make sustainable choices. Key findings included:

  • 88% of people in the UK would like to make more sustainable choices if they could. 
  • 88% feel it's too hard to make sustainable choices because of high costs, inconvenience, limited knowledge or other barriers.
  • 86% wish leadership (from government and businesses) was stronger when it comes to the environment.
  • 86% would like both government and businesses to do more to help make more sustainable choices.

While climate action must be driven by policy and a commitment from industry, it is reassuring to know that the consumer is in strong favour of these paradigm shifts. The findings from the BIT report illustrate that the majority of the UK public is eager for sustainable choices to be readily available, easy to understand and reasonably priced. In fact, almost 60% say they have either already started or are willing to reduce their meat and dairy consumption, while eight in 10 want to reduce their food waste.

Steering sustainable food

The report spans a range of topics, but it was the chapter on food that got the attention of Team Nutritics. 

The research showed that simply making sustainable food options more available and easier to access at a consumer-facing level proved very popular, without the need to penalise or restrict the consumption of meat and dairy products. Indeed, the majority of respondents (two out of three) were in favour of positive rather than restrictive options. Examples included improving the availability of sustainable food in retail and hospitality settings, offering clear communication on the environmental impacts of food, and providing timely prompts to consider more sustainable choices.

The study also revealed the barriers that discourage people from adopting more sustainable diets. These include a perception of higher cost, a lack of knowledge, time pressure and familiarity. 

Education and communication, it seems, are key. When asked why they might not choose sustainable food, the second-most important reason given was, “I lack sufficient knowledge of what foods are good or bad for the environment,” with which a whopping 60% of respondents agreed.

Nudges work

The report includes recommendations for normalising sustainable food choices and making them both accessible and easy to understand. Evidence from large-scale surveys across 20 countries, including the UK, shows very high support for environmental ‘nudges’ of this sort. Much of this can be delivered by individual businesses, although the report is clear that the government also has a significant role to play and that “the right policies should incentivise this to happen”. 

Some practical steps you can take to encourage sustainable choices in your food business are:

  • Increase the availability of sustainable food options by including relatively more plant-based meals on menus.
  • Putting sustainable options in more prominent and salient positions.
  • Offering simple guidance to increase knowledge of what's sustainable and what's not. One suggestion is a clear, easy-to-grasp labelling system.
  • Avoiding the segregation of plant-based options into dedicated sections of menus and stores, as it can make them seem niche. Interspersing them amongst more ‘traditional’ choices increases their perceived normalcy and the likelihood that new customers may try them. 
  • Emphasising that more people are choosing plant-based food, making it a ‘norm’.
  • Reduce portion sizes to reduce waste, even if permitting second portions.

Let Foodprint do the hard work for you.

At Nutritics, we know how busy the food industry can be; that’s why we’ve created a fully automated system that does the time-consuming work for you. Foodprint automatically calculates the carbon footprint of your food supply chain to manage your purchasing and scope 3 non financial reporting requirements. 

As you enter recipes into Nutritics, your Foodprint score is updated, taking into account the environmental impact specific to each ingredient. Changes made to foods, recipes and suppliers are updated in real-time, allowing you to tweak your dishes to reduce their impact on the environment.

Meanwhile, front-of-house, our clear and colourful labels let you communicate this impact to your customers, giving them the power to make informed, climate-friendly decisions.

Learn more about how Foodprint can help your food business. Get in touch today and make carbon tracking a piece of cake!

Interested in more ways to bring sustainability into your business? Read why water, waste and carbon are such important metrics when it comes to reducing your environmental impact — and how to get started in tackling them.