Consumers Cite Environmental Impact as a Factor in Food Purchases

Respondents of Kearney's "2023 Earth Day Survey" expect food companies to take action.
corporate sustainability

CHICAGO Despite ongoing food price inflation and related economic pressures, consumers are considering the environmental impacts of their food choices.

"Climavorism"  defined as actively making food choices based on climate impacts with the intent to benefit the planet is a growing concept and lifestyle. According to Kearney's "2023 Earth Day Survey" of 1,000 U.S. consumers saw awareness of the environmental impacts of their food choices significantly increase since the market research firm’s 2020 survey.

[Read more: Majority of U.S. Consumers Will Pay More for Sustainable Products]

"Being a climavore isn't as much about what you eat as it is about why you make your food choices. Climavores can be vegans, vegetarians or omnivores," noted Corey Chafin, partner in Kearney's consumer practice and the study's principal author.

In the 2023 survey, approximately 42 percent of respondents said they "always/nearly always" consider the environment when making a buying decision. This is a historic high and an 18 percentage point increase over 2022, a clear signal that Kearney's conclusion last year that climavorism was growing from the "consumer fringe" to the heart of the mass market is becoming a reality, the firm said.

"We see a clear opportunity for food producers across the value chain to capitalize on the growing momentum of climavorism and be a first mover in the market," observed Chafin.

While the survey's respondents are looking to change their buying patterns to positively impact the environment, they clearly lay the burden for that change at the foot of food manufacturers. When asked who should be responsible for driving faster adoption of environmentally friendly food selections, 42 percent of respondents said "producers."

When then asked to specifically identify what segment of the food value chain ought to be responsible for these changes, 54 percent of consumers indicated they thought it was largely a problem that should be addressed by food manufacturers. These findings present opportunities for food manufacturers to "do well by doing good," according to Kearney.

"Consumers expect food companies to take action," said Moritz Breuninger, principal in Kearney's consumer practice and the study's co-author. "This allows food companies that are already pursuing strategies to meet Scope 3 targets to hit two birds with one stone."

[Read more: Ten Food Trends to Watch in 2023]

Kearney's "2023 Earth Day Survey" also contains four plausible scenarios exploring how climavorism might scale faster through consumer demand, federal regulation and legislation, food industry leadership, or by climate changes that will have a drastic impact on what crops are available beginning less than a decade from now. The full report is available here.

Chicago-based Kearney is a leading global management consulting firm.