Global management consulting firm Kearney has released its 2022 Earth Day Survey, which measures the growing momentum of “climavorism” among consumers – referring to the making of mindful food choices based on environmental impact.
This year’s survey polled 1,000 US consumers on their awareness of, and reaction to, the connection between food preferences and climate change concerns. The results showed many consumers had awareness of the issue and were willing to shift food purchasing behaviors.
“Daily food choice is a call to action for consumers keen to make a positive impact on climate outcomes, with nearly one-third of consumers in our survey considering environmental impact at the grocery store,” said Corey Chafin, Associate Partner in Kearney’s consumer practice, and principal study author.
Taste and cost lead
According to the survey, the three most significant influences on respondents’ purchasing choices were Access (the ability to find and prepare food), Hunger (the desire to eat immediately), and Culture (taste preferences and familiar connection to foods.)
Based on self-reported buying behavior at grocery, foodservice and online ordering channels, Kearney’s study found that Taste and Cost ranked as consumers’ first and second most important considerations, respectively. Cost more strongly influenced purchasing online, while taste drove decisions at restaurants.
Kearney asserts the food industry must pay close attention to the growing “climavore” consumer segment because it carries real momentum, and the food sector will likely become subject to future mandates if GHG emissions are not voluntarily reduced.
Plant-based interest waning?
The study also uncovered a more negative consumer response to plant-based food alternatives, with 19% of respondents stating they were likely to purchase such products in the next 12 months, down from 31% in 2021.
Relating to this, a growing number of plant-based insiders argue that too many processed ingredients and questionable sustainability claims are plaguing the industry, and have begun to call for reform. How plant-based companies respond to consumer surveys such as these remains to be seen. But the effect of the “climavores” cannot be ignored.
As Chafin says, “Food companies must add ‘Climate Impact’ to their product re-formulation and design-to-value campaigns to prepare for the rise of the Climavore consumer.”