The research was conducted by the EIT Food Consumer Observatory at the 2023 Future of Food Conference in Brussels, with the support of European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT).
Surveying almost 10,000 consumers across 18 different European countries, researchers found widespread support for universal labels – 67% said that they want to use such a label compared to 13% that said they would be unlikely to use one.
Currently, no internationally agreed standards for environmental and sustainability food labelling exist. As a result, a sense of distrust in the claims made on food packages has developed, with 63% of respondents stating that they think brands pretend their products are more sustainable than in reality. Furthermore, just 33% of respondents feel that their national government is transparent about how sustainability labels are regulated.
The recyclability of packaging was a top concern that respondents would like to see incorporated into a universal eco-label, with 90% highlighting it. Animal welfare and pollution were also key focuses and were addressed by 89% and 88% of those surveyed respectively.
Widespread support for universal labelling
EIT Food Consumer Observatory director Klaus Grunert said that 450 different sustainability logos are currently in operation around the world and the lack of a universal standard is leaving consumers “confused”.
“It’s clear from our research that consumers want to be better informed about the environmental footprint of their food and that there is widespread support for a universal, independent and factually substantiated label for sustainable food products,” Grunert explained.
“Introducing such a label - and ensuring that all eco-labels include clear and concise information - could be the best way to empower consumers to make informed choices about how what they eat impacts the planet.”
The research was released to mark the launch of the new Consumer Observatory. Part of EIT Food, it aims to bring together consumer insights and knowledge from the world’s largest food innovation community.
“We’re at a critical juncture: the food system must be transformed if we are to succeed in ensuring it can deliver healthy, sustainable food for all,” said director of public engagement at EIT Food Sofia Kuhn.
“In the Consumer Observatory, a crucial forum now exists to help realise this aim within Europe, putting consumer insights at the forefront. The knowledge the Consumer Observatory gathers into consumer behaviours will be available to food systems actors to help reach the shared goal of driving forward a healthier and more sustainable food system.”