Bayer Food Focus Project finds food packaging a top concern but food sustainability less so for Kiwis
A partnership between leading life science company Bayer and the NZ Nutrition Foundation (NZNF) has released the insights from its inaugural Bayer Food Focus Project, taking a look into Kiwis’ eating behaviours and food consumption.
The project consisted of two key parts: the first Australasian pilot study conducted by Auckland University of Technology (AUT), using the new innovative Veggie Meter device to establish a benchmark of Kiwis’ vegetable and fruit consumption via a fingertip scan; and an online questionnaire with 1,346 adult respondents to understand which foods New Zealanders are most commonly consuming and why.
Findings from the survey indicate that respondents identified the amount of plastic packaging as their top concern when making decisions to purchase food and beverages, with 42 percent rating it as extremely or very important. However, figures dropped substantially when respondents were asked about environmental sustainability.
Only 27 percent identified that knowing their food was produced in an environmentally sustainable way (including organic) was extremely or very important. Furthermore, only 21 percent found the use of modern farming techniques to be extremely or very important when making purchasing decisions.
Nutrition writer and commentator Niki Bezzant says “although plastic packaging is detrimental to the health of the planet, agriculture emissions and less sustainable farming practices can also be problematic. It’s interesting to note that respondents were less inclined to identify these as concerns.”
Collectively, 30 percent of respondents stated that they currently are or have been in the last 12 months vegetarian or vegan with a further eight percent stating that they have followed a flexitarian diet in the same period. This was higher among younger people (those aged 15-34) with 43 percent having been vegetarian or vegan in the last 12 months and 13 percent having followed a flexitarian diet.
NZNF Scientific Director and Emeritus Professor of Nutrition at AUT Elaine Rush says “it appears there has been an increase from the 2008/09 Ministry of Health Survey with more people following plant-based ways of eating. This is a positive shift, as eating a variety of wholesome foods, mostly plant-based, can improve not only Kiwis’ health, but also the health of our planet.”
Interestingly, findings also highlighted that older participants were less likely to rank environmental sustainability as an important factor when making decisions around food. Forty five percent of people aged 15-34 years stated that food being produced in an environmentally sustainable way was either very or extremely important to them, compared to only 29 percent of those aged 55 years or more.
NZNF Chief Executive Sarah Hanrahan says “there seems to be a clear correlation between age and sustainability consciousness and it’s encouraging to see younger generations being more mindful. We need to continue to look at our food systems to ensure that not only are they providing safe, healthy diets for all Kiwis, but that that they are also protecting Aotearoa’s natural environment.”
Bayer New Zealand Managing Director Derek Bartlett says “as a life sciences company, we have a keen interest in supporting the goal of sustainably producing enough healthy food for our growing population. It’s vital to get a snapshot of what Kiwis are eating and why so we can continue to pursue innovative ways to ultimately create a healthier world.”
The survey component was carried out by the National Research Bureau using Dynata’s consumer panel; and the Veggie Meter readings were measured by PhD students who specialise in food and nutrition from AUT’s Faculty of Health and Environmental Science. The full findings from the Veggie Meter study are expected to be presented at the Nutrition Society meeting at the end of November and submitted for publication in the peer reviewed literature soon after.
For more information, find the survey report here.