Eco-conscious consumers are redefining what it means to eat healthily.
As consumers increasingly shift their habits to align with their values, the definition of healthy eating is expanding to include eating for planetary and environmental health as well as for individual health. 64% of consumers state that they want to reduce their carbon footprint to protect the planet for future generations and 50% of consumers state they eat meat free for environmental reasons, according to recent findings from YouGov. Millennials are taking this to heart, with one in five changing their diet to reduce their impact on the climate.
Now, brands and platforms are stepping in to help consumers better understand the impact that their food choices have on the environment.
In January 2020, Quorn Foods announced that they will start including carbon labelling on their food products. The new labels position carbon emissions as a health consideration, listing carbon footprint calculations alongside nutritional information to help users understand the environmental impact associated with different food items. The new labels will be introduced on select products in June 2020 and will be fully rolled out for all products in 2021. According to The Telegraph, Nestle is considering introducing something similar for their food product labels.
Bon Apetit’s Healthyish published a climate eating guide in January 2020 with suggestions for small changes readers can make to their eating habits to have a positive impact on the environment. Called The Healthyish guide to eating for the planet without stressing out, the feature offers pointers for composting or going plant based for one meal of the day. “Eating for the climate is something that’s very popular right now,” Aliza Abarbanel, assistant editor at Healthyish, tells Wunderman Thompson Intelligence. “A lot of us are conscious of all the climate disasters that are happening right now, and our individual and collective carbon footprints,” Abarbanel notes, and eating habits offers a way for consumers to “take action in their own lives.”
In August 2019, BBC released a climate change food calculator that measures the carbon footprint of users’ diets to helps them understand how their food choices impact the environment. “What we eat is one of the most powerful drivers behind most of the world’s major environmental issues, whether it’s climate change or biodiversity loss,” researcher Joseph Poore, who contributed to the food calculator, told BBC News.
At Teranga, a West African eatery that opened in New York City in February 2019, chef and owner Pierre Thiam emphasizes ingredients that expand limited diets. “By supporting underutilized crops in my menus, I contribute to saving our planet’s biodiversity,” Thiam told Forbes.com. “In the current context, designing a menu should be a conscious and responsible act.”
Space10, Ikea’s research lab, released a cookbook in May 2019 that integrates these principles, with recipes like a bug burger, algae chips and microgreen ice cream. “The aim is to inspire people to explore new delicious flavors and sustainable and healthy ingredients,” Simon Caspersen, cofounder of Space10, tells Wunderman Thompson Intelligence, “and to be a bit more curious and open-minded about food diversity.”
As consumers are pivoting towards a “climate diet,” choosing environmentally friendly alternatives to meat and dairy, food brands will need to start producing healthy and sustainable foods that not nourish the planet alongside the consumer.