Food choice is the key wild card variable defining how climate change will ultimately affect human diet, nutrition, and health. The consumers’ response to modifications in food characteristics (composition, quality, nutritional value) and to concerns on sustainability will shape the future of European food systems and the success of policy interventions and mitigating strategies towards food and nutrition security. The specific objectives of the WP are:
● to analyse data from extant sources and identify key food choice trends in the EU up to 2030/2050, globally and per relevant population group;
● to match trends to targets for healthy, resilient and sustainable food systems in the face of climate change, and identify main gaps;
● to estimate the impact of foreseeable changes in EU food systems, brought about by the transition to more sustainable sourcing, production, processing (particularly of the modified or new products) and provisioning activities in the face of climate change, on food choice up to 2030/2050;
● to assess consumer acceptance and adoption of alternative sources of macro- and micro-nutrients and novel foods, and their role in mitigating strategies;
● to identify key challenges and research needs, synthesizing relevant conclusions and implications to other WPs and the KH overall.Description of work and role of partners
The work will be based on existing data, projects, activities and initiatives.
Task 4.1. How we eat
Aim: The accurate identification and comprehensive analysis of extant food choices and eating patterns are critical to forecasting trends towards targets for healthy, resilient and sustainable food systems in the face of climate change, as well as to assess the feasibility and impact of behavioural changes introduced at the consumer level to meet such targets (Mertens et al., 2017). Food choice includes not only dietary choices determining the intake of nutrients, therefore closely related to health aspects of food consumption, but also other food-related behaviours such as food purchasing habits, food provisioning, storage, preparation and waste, as well as values, and attitudes behind these practices. The present task aims to identify relevant sources of information on food choice in the EU (e.g., national food consumption databases, project databases, and reports, published study reviews and reports) and define what data should be collected from them, and how these data should be compiled, harmonized and made available for analysis (in relation to WP1). Further, from the analysis of available datasets we aim to identify current eating patterns and key consumer food choice trends up to 2030/2050 and indicate the main gaps.
Method: In this task, we will analyse information on food choices in the EU from multiple sources (including team own data) to i) identify patterns and key trends up to 2030/2050, globally and per relevant population groups; ii) match these to targets for healthy, resilient and sustainable food systems, and identify main gaps; iii) identify the main determinants conducting to these patterns. A comprehensive dataset on food choice should include quantitative data (i.e., meat-based food consumption vs. vegetable-based consumption, measures of consumer food waste), information on socio-economic, psychological and cultural factors affecting food consumption, and indicators of acceptable, healthy and sustainable food consumption patterns, to evaluate the potential shift of consumer choices towards healthier and more sustainable ones.
Source: based on results from past projects (SUSFOOD, SUSFANS, DEDIPAC), we will also use results from WP1 to identify data availability and gaps. We will conduct systematic reviews of published studies and reports on food consumption and dietary choices. All results will be available for dissemination.
Task 4.2. Changing food practices
Aim: Diets that adequately balance protein intake from meat, fish, plant and other sources are essential for food systems to deliver on targets for health, nutrition-resilience, and sustainability, given the well-known link between dietary patterns and environmental sustainability (GHGE, land-use, water-use). Traditionally, the empirical literature analysed the possibility of inducing a change in dietary patterns towards habits that are more sustainable. A common result is that the substitution of meat with plant-based products may induce sizeable reductions in GHGE emissions (Hallstrom et al., 2015). Knowledge of the consumers’ determinants of sustainable food choices and of the trade-offs they make between products will help to pilot consumers’ choices towards more sustainable practices. On the other hand, food research is promising: by 2030, EU food producers will be able to deliver safe, nutritious, abundant, sustainable, palatable and cheap sources of dietary protein that are viable alternatives to meat consumption (e.g., insects, micro-algae, farmed fish and seafood, pulses) (van Zanten et al., 2019). In addition, dietary diversification can benefit from the introduction of new foods and ingredients with high nutritional quality and health benefits (e.g., biofortified, functional). This will also contribute to raise the use of some underutilized food sources and lower the effects of seasonality on the availability of others. Of course, a relevant issue is consumers’ acceptability of new ingredients and foods.
We aim to synthesize findings from literature/projects on current levels of acceptance and adoption of alternative sources, drivers of, and barriers to protein diversification by consumers (safety, ethics, availability, labelling and price, socio-cultural factors, physiological and sensory aspects); to evaluate their impact on acceptance and adoption of alternative protein sources (trade-offs).
To do so we have identified two sub-tasks.
Sub-Task 4.2.1. Sustainable food choices
Aim: Sustainable diets require shifts in dietary choices and/or alternatives sources of macronutrients, mainly proteins; in any case, knowledge of the determinants of food choices and of the overall consumers’ awareness about sustainable diets. The success of mitigating strategies that rely on steering food choice towards aspired nutrition, health, and sustainability goals is highly dependent on concurrent consumer actions that adequately contextualize and facilitate desired behavioural changes in everyday food practices (Meah, 2014). Beyond motivational variables (individual characteristics), capability (health and environmental literacy, food and cooking skills, and self-efficacy) opportunity (social structure, built environment, and policy) factors and hedonic aspects will also determine the extent to which desired changes in food choice translate into new and enduring everyday food behaviour (Michie et al, 2011).
Method: We will review results from previous projects and literature on motivational and other types of determinants of consumer choice related to sustainable diets (see also Task 4.1). We will review extant research on acceptance (sensory properties), capability (food literacy, skills, and self-efficacy) and opportunity (social structure, built environment, policy) determinants of everyday food practices (food provisioning, preparation, eating, and disposal) in the EU, globally and per relevant population groups. We will review the extant literature and projects on the impact of the protein-sources alternative to meat consumption (e.g., insects, micro-algae, farmed fish and seafood, pulses, etc.), assessing their potential, and taking also into account the sensory perception as one crucial driver for changing choices.
Sources: We build on DEDIPAC outcomes (Stok et al., 2017; Symmank et al., 2017). Results will enable the mapping of related key drivers of, and barriers to changes in food choice to meet the targets for healthy, acceptable, resilient and sustainable food.
SubTask 4.2.2 Innovative diets
Aim: In this subtask, we will estimate the impact of some novel foods on the evolution of food choice in the EU and assess their potential to mitigate the gaps to food system targets. Novel foods will allow increasing dietary diversification and raising the use of some underutilized food sources, but the assessment of their impact requires a comprehensive knowledge of their acceptance and adoption in different population groups by geographical area, age class, gender, and socio-economic status and legal framework.
Method: We will systematically review and analyse findings from previous literature and projects to assess consumer attitudes and acceptability towards new functional food and ingredients. To assess the feasibility of introducing these products in the EU food systems, we will focus on current consumption habits across EU countries, on consumers determinants in buying and eating novel and functional foods, including sensory characteristics, and on the legal framework (labelling, market authorization, certifications, health claims, etc). Case studies will be selected on specific test cases, including cereals, legumes, and olive oil for terrestrial, and fish, mollusks and algae for aquatic systems.
Source: Findings from the project (Task 3.1) and other past and ongoing projects, scientific literature and reports. Results will enable the mapping of key drivers of consumer acceptance of novel foods and of their role in mitigating strategies.
Task 4.3. Consumer Food Future Scenarios
Aim: Scenario exercises are important for the evaluation of future food choice trajectories within EU food systems, as there is high uncertainty about how such trajectories will evolve, not only in the face of the effects of climate change and associated mitigating strategies and policy decisions but also as food and societal innovation pathways unfold over time.
Method: Identifying and selecting food scenarios will require considering many different aspects (food system constraints, dynamics, and driving forces, policy goals, and consumers’ adaptation, at either the aggregate or the individual level). We will identify focal issues and driving forces, ranking their importance and the related uncertainty, in order to assess their impact. Key challenges and research gaps uncovered by this exercise will be summarized, along with relevant conclusions and implications to other WPs and the KH overall.
Sources: We build on scenarios developed in EU research projects (TRANSMANGO, SALSA, SUFISA, SUSFANS and other) and apply SUSFANS approach (Zurek et al., 2018). Findings from Tasks 4.1 and 4.2, will be synthesized in the form of proposed C-FFS for 2030 and 2050, which will then be reviewed by remaining KH partners and stakeholders from the food processing and distribution industries.
WP4 will assess a state-of-the-art knowledge of drivers of food choices and develop food consumption scenario for 2030/2050, and individuate existing gaps and identify key challenges, and provide recommendations for research and policy development. We will achieve this by writing systematic reviews and/or position papers on the analysis of key food choice trends in the EU up to 2030, on drivers of sustainable food choices and on the acceptance of novel foods.