Seminar - Shifting consumer demand towards sustainable diets

Session Chairs: Henry Jäger (BOKU Vienna, Austria) and Arthur Robin (Remilk, Rehovot, Israel)

The consumer plays a major role in the transition towards sustainable food systems. Consumers may act as drivers or barriers towards more sustainable production and consumption in the food sector. Shifting consumer demand for a more sustainable diet can be seen as one approach. Consumer's perception, information and purchase behavior related to sustainable foods may determine consumer's influence and power to change the present food system. In addition to the selection of sustainable foods, handling of food by the consumer and the generation or avoidance of food waste can also be seen as a major contribution to a sustainable diet and consumption. The second seminar that was held online on 25 June 2021, therefore addressed the following questions:

  • What is the role of the consumer and the consumer’s influence and power to change the present food system?
  • What are consumer perceptions and acceptance of sustainable food and a sustainable diet?
  • What information is needed and how can it be communicated in order to facilitate the consumer's sustainable choice?
  • What options for actions are available in order to change consumer mindset, consciousness and habits? And which stakeholders should be involved?

Talk 1 - Epidemiological approach to sustainable diets: determinants of food behaviours, mechanisms and links with health
Julia Baudry & Benjamin Allès, Nutritional Epidemiology Research Team (EREN), French National Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment (INRAE), France
The food system is currently facing considerable challenges. What are sustainable diets, what are the impacts of plant-based diets on health and the environment, and what are the food choice motives driving vegetarianism?

Talk 2 - Food waste prevention: a new approach to sustainable food system?
Gudrun Obersteiner, Institute of Waste Management, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU), Austria
According to recent studies about one-third of total global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are related to food. Despite the associated high environmental impacts, one-third of the food produced worldwide is not consumed but disposed of or wasted along the value chain, in which also the consumer plays a major role. Facing the challenge to limit Global Warming the focus of this talk is on the environmental dimension of food waste, leading to the research questions: How much GHG emissions are caused by food waste and food waste-related activities and which strategies of food waste prevention and/or reduction could be accelerated to reduce them. Solutions at the consumer level are highlighted.

Talk 3 - Future Food Science: creating sustainable solutions
Ian Noble, Mondelez, UK
Delivering sustainable solutions to our future food reality requires advancement in our food science and engineering capabilities if we are to enable the production of consumer-appreciated foods, an economic prerequisite to successfully strengthening the sustainability of our food system.

Talk 4 - Valorisation of surplus food: towards the consumer’s sustainable choice
Cornelia & Andreas Diesenreiter, Unverschwendet GmbH, Austria
A large portion of fruits, vegetables and other foods is discarded due to aesthetic reasons or surplus production. This is driven to a certain extent by consumer preferences and consumer perception of food quality and the highly specialized requirements of supermarkets for specific shapes, colours and sizes of fruits and vegetables. The company Unverschwendet (“unwasted”) is using surplus fruits and vegetables to create delicious products emphasising the great potential of unutilised resources in the area of food and providing people culinary and enjoyable experience while also preventing food waste and contributing to a sustainable lifestyle.

Talk 5 - Consumer acceptance of sustainable products
Julien Delarue, UC Davis, USA
The inclusion of alternative raw materials and more sustainable protein sources is a possible strategy to nudge consumers towards dietary change in Western societies. Considering differences in consumer motivation as well as the product’s conceptual and intrinsic sensory properties is important in order to create a major impact on consumer’s food choice.

After the presentations, the speakers will be available for a panel discussion involving the audience.

This seminar is part of a seminar series 'Sustainable Food Systems: Connecting Expertise in Academia and Industry'  organized by the Working Group on Sustainable Food Systems and Young EFFoST. It aims to provide detailed insights into various facets of sustainability in the food sector. The seminars include expert talks, practical indications from industry professionals, as well as short presentations from selected early-stage researchers. Access the programme of the full seminar series and the slides from previous seminars here.



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