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 Today, many of the world’s biodiverse landscapes have been replaced by monocultures.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. 

Our approach:

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. 

Findings in a nutshell:

The study revealed three main findings regarding consumers’ knowledge, attitudes, and behavior:

  1. There is a general lack of awareness amongst consumers regarding the topic of agricultural and dietary biodiversity. Participants were aware that having a balanced diet (not too much sugar, enough fruits and vegetables) is important, however there is little awareness about the importance of eating a highly varied diet (for example 30 different plant foods per week, including grains, herbs and spices). A first step in guiding consumers’ behavior in the right direction would be to clearly define a varied diet and increase awareness on what a varied diet entails.
  2. In general, participants had a positive attitude towards eating a varied diet. Most participants want to eat a variety of different foods, and state that they already pay attention to this. However, the study showed that even though consumers eat balanced, there is only a little variety between the different types of fruits, vegetables and grains they consume. Out of 41 listed foods only 11 were consumed more than once in the past month by more than half of the participants.
  3. Participants were unaware of the environmental benefits biodiverse diets can have. After clarifying the difference between a balanced and varied diet, participants were asked to discuss the advantages of a varied diet. Most participants recognized the health benefits of eating varied and mentioned that eating more varied is tastier. However, participants were completely unaware of the environmental benefits of eating more divers and having more biodiverse agriculture. People who aim to make sustainable food choices are not yet aware that eating varied can have a positive impact on our food system.

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: a message concerning the health benefits of maintaining a biodiverse diet. 

  • Variety for sustainable agriculture: a message about the sustainability aspect of agricultural biodiversity. It provides the receiver with specific information on how agricultural biodiversity benefits the environment and highlights how his/her own food choices impact the food system. 

  • Variety for discovery: a message about the flavor options a biodiverse diet offers. This description places taste and discovery in focus.

Choosing the right message to promote biodiverse food choices

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. 


We believe that understanding consumers is key to making the food system more sustainable. Successful innovation and impactful communication require a solid foundation of consumer insight. 

We are the insights partner of choice for food companies and non-profits  that aim to have a positive impact on society and our planet. Together we empower consumers to make food choices that are good for them as well as for the planet.

The Hague Tech - Wilhelmina van Pruisenweg 35 - 2595AN - The Hague
(+31) (0)70 2042314 - Info@futureoffood.institute

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