Food In Canada

Consumer fears over food shortages and climate change escalate: Mintel study

By Food in Canada Staff   

Sustainability Consumer behaviour Editor pick food security Mintel Consulting

Consumer fears over climate change have escalated around the globe over the last year. According to new research from the 2022 Mintel Consulting Sustainability Barometer, the number of global consumers citing climate change as a top three environmental concern has risen from an average of 39 to 46 per cent between 2021-22.

In addition to climate change, concern over water shortages (up from 27 per cent in 2021 to 31 per cent in 2022) and food shortages (up from 17 per cent to 23 per cent) have made the most significant gains in terms of environmental priorities in the past 12 months as extreme weather events and the conflict in Ukraine make these troubling realities more commonplace.

Climate change remains the world’s highest environmental priority with nearly half (46 per cent) of consumers globally citing it among their top three concerns. Air quality (e.g. exhaust fumes, industrial emissions) (36 per cent) and plastic pollution (e.g. ocean plastic) (33 per cent) complete the world’s top three environmental concerns. However, concerns about plastic pollution are down slightly from 36 per cent in 2021.

Growing awareness is evident as just under three in five (58 per cent) consumers globally agree that extreme weather events (e.g. flooding, heatwaves) in the country where they live encourage them to personally do more activities to protect the environment. And it seems helping the planet brings with it a feel-good factor as an overwhelming 68 per cent of consumers globally say doing things that benefit the environment makes them feel happy. While 38 per cent say they want to show other people how they are doing good for the environment (e.g. by sharing on social media). A further 24 per cent say they have researched their annual carbon footprint (e.g. with an online calculator or app).


While environmental priorities have shifted in the last year, consumers’ sustainable behaviours remain focused on simplicity and frugality: recycling packaging (59 per cent in 2022 vs. 60 per cent in 2021), meal planning to avoid food waste (53 per cent in 2022 vs. 52 per cent in 2021) and reducing clothes buying (50 per cent in 2022 vs. 52 per cent in 2021) remain the top global sustainable behaviours, 2022-2021. Further, global consumers’ optimism has stalled with 55 per cent believing that if we act now, we still have time to save the planet, compared to 54 per cent who said the same last year.

The second annual Mintel Consulting Sustainability Barometer features research and insight on consumers’ sustainability attitudes, behaviours and purchase preferences across 16 countries.

Richard Cope, senior trends consultant, Mintel Consulting, said, “The fact that concerns around climate change and water and food shortages are being prioritized ahead of previous preoccupations with waste and plastic pollution points toward the emergence of a more informed and hardened global consumer. Soaring temperatures, extreme weather events and disruptions to food, water and energy supply chains have given consumers a harsh reality check, hurting their health and wallets, and activating them in the process. In the meantime, escalating activism, regulatory reaction and the sheer scale of the challenges ahead and solutions required have educated global consumers enough to sniff out greenwashing campaigns and there’s no going back from that. This means companies will increasingly need to assert—and clearly communicate—the truly impactful actions they are taking to reduce emissions, rather than simply offset them or dip their toes into populist ‘plastic-free’ campaigns. This growing awareness around resource inputs and emission and waste outputs will also spell the end for ‘environmentally friendly’ as a credible marketing term.

“Our research shows that the majority of consumers continue to see recycling and mitigating waste as important sustainable behaviours. This tells us that simple, frugal behaviours are the most popular among consumers, which underlines the fact that brands’ sustainability initiatives need to deliver on value and convenience. Looking ahead to 2023, expect to see resource (food, water, money) conservation ascend further up the agenda and the use of economizing technology refurbishers and urban peer access sharing economies to grow. For consumers, the connections between saving the environment, its resources and their money will strengthen.”

Five hundred internet users aged 16/18+ across 16 countries (Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Poland, South Korea, Spain, Thailand, UK, US) were surveyed in March 2021.  One thousand internet users aged 16/18+ across 16 countries were surveyed in April 2022, with Poland and Ireland replaced by Indonesia and Mexico.

An executive summary of the Mintel Consulting Sustainability Barometer 2022 is available for free download here.

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