Diversity on our plates helps biodiversity on the planet. But does it matter to consumers?
First Step Towards Agricultural Biodiversity
The biodiversity of our ecosystems on earth is diminishing at an alarming rate. Ecosystems, species, and within-species genetical resources are becoming increasingly less diverse.
Agriculture is a major driver of biodiversity loss. Whilst modern agricultural systems have boosted food production, they have also caused considerable damage to biodiversity. Today, many of the world’s biodiverse landscapes have been replaced by monocultures. This shift towards modern agricultural systems has also influenced our diets. Currently, just 15 plants and eight animal species make up 90% of the world’s food, even though there is an estimate of over 30,000 edible plants!
What can consumers do to prevent the loss of biodiversity?
Changes in the way we produce and consume are needed. One way to stop and reverse biodiversity loss, is nature-inclusive agricultural systems. Consumers’ choices play a critical role as they influence what and how producers produce, meaning that consumers should be encouraged to make more biodiverse food choices and maintain more varied diets.
This study explores participants’ current attitudes towards highly varied diets, and their current eating patterns.
Based on current consumer attitudes and behaviors three ways to promote biodiverse food choices were developed and tested. The study was conducted using the Food Forum, our very own online community of Dutch conscious consumers.
The study revealed three main findings regarding consumers’ knowledge, attitudes, and behavior:
Developing messages to promote biodiverse food choices
To add more diversity to one’s diet, consumers can do two things.
First, they need to pay attention to switching between familiar foods and ingredients regularly.
Secondly, they can try-out and introduce new foods to their diet.
In the second part of our research, we developed three different platforms that aim to promote highly-varied food choices. To find the right messages for these platforms, we further investigated what barriers and motivations consumers face when making food choices and trying new products. We also examined what aspects of biodiverse diets consumers find most appealing.
Three key aspects of having a biodiverse diet stood out, including the health and sustainability aspect of eating varied diets, as well as consumers’ need to discover and experiment with new ingredients.
Variety for a healthy diet was appealing to many as most participants place great importance on eating healthily. Also, highlighting benefits which directly influence oneself can be particularly convincing.
Variety for a sustainable agriculture convinced participants, as many identify with the sustainability goal the platform highlights. The message was particularly relevant for consumers as the information provided was new to the vast majority. The link between biodiverse food choices and sustainability is not yet established. As such, this platform can help spread awareness and target a large consumer group that prioritizes making sustainable food choices.
Variety for discovery was particularly appealing to individuals who are curious to try out new foods or dishes and are interested in cooking. It can also be used to motivate individuals who are interested in eating varied but generally lack the inspiration to implement variation in day-to-day life. It can therefore be particularly appealing to individuals with limited time, such as young professionals or families with kids.
Overall, as each platform addresses one specific benefit of having a diverse diet, and therefore appeals to different needs of consumers, it is important to identify which consumer group or which needs are targeted before picking a message.
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