New research from Bord Bia’s insight centre, The Thinking House, has found that a majority of people want guidance on how to eat well.
Since 2001, Bord Bia’s PERIscope study, the largest quantitative study of its kind in Ireland, has been exploring consumer attitudes including local food, the environment, and health and wellbeing. The comprehensive study is carried out across eight countries - Ireland and the UK, four continental European markets, the US, and China – and involves more than 8,000 interviews.
Grace Binchy, consumer insight manager with Bord Bia, spoke this week about the importance of the study to Ireland’s food and drink industry. “This level of knowledge and consumer understanding allows our food and drink producers, selling at home and abroad, to make well informed business decisions that serve customers’ needs better," she said. "For instance, we know that nearly 70 per cent of those surveyed want help to eat well. With this in mind, manufacturers should consider how they can help people to do just that, as well as digest nutritional labelling, create convenience in their lives, and address changing perceptions around sustainability.”
The highlights of the research findings are listed below.
Health and wellbeing
Health and wellbeing continues to be a major trend globally, and Irish people have a positive perception of their own health, with 88 per cent recognising it is important to eat well and acknowledging a link between diet and mental wellbeing.
Overall Bord Bia found very few people follow an eating regime, with four in 10 saying they believe in eating a balanced diet. People also believe their eating habits are becoming healthier, with one third saying they are eating healthily.
Half of people claim to be confused about what we should eat to be healthy, while some 60 per cent say nutritional claims and food labels are hard to understand.
The perception of ‘low fat’ as a healthy choice is experiencing decline, down from 71 per cent in 2006 to 58 per cent. Sugar is also under pressure with 59 per cent checking for sugar content. The survey also found 71 per cent of people are conscious of their children’s sugar intake.
Some 94 per cent say that they try to eat a lot of fruit and vegetables. Meanwhile 84 per cent are trying to eat high fibre foods, while 88 per cent see protein as an important part of their diet
People are trying to eat less sugar and bad fat (98 per cent ), salt (96 per cent ), soft drinks (92 per cent ), and breads, cereals, rice and pasta (64 per cent ). Meat creates divided opinion with 49 per cent saying they are eating less while 51 per cent are consuming more.
The majority of parents claim they try to make sure their children have a balanced diet, however four in 10 admit it is hard to get children to eat vegetables.
Fewer parents are concerned about childhood obesity, falling from 35 per cent in 2007 to 21 per cent.
Cooking confidence and eating habits
Only three in 10 people are confident that they could produce a good Sunday roast, yet cooking from scratch is showing growth over time rising from 46 per cent in 2005 to 69 per cent. Some 25 per cent of men are solely responsible for cooking in the home.
While 32 per cent say they rarely have time for a proper breakfast, this is in contrast to 2005 when nearly half did not have a proper breakfast.
Meanwhile 24 per cent are entertaining at home more often, and 40 per cent eat takeaway once a week.
Three quarters of Irish people eat their main meal in the kitchen, in comparison to 25 per cent of those in the UK, who claim to eat in the living room/lounge.
Half of people bring in their own lunch to work, with fewer people now going out for lunch.
Price, local food and convenience
The results in relation to value and price sensitivity suggest a softening of the desire to focus on price since the height of the recession. Now 52 per cent say the first thing they look at is price (this was at 60 per cent in 2015 ).
The importance of buying local peaked during the recession at 73 per cent, and now rests at 67 per cent.
Checking for country of origin (78 per cent ) and quality symbols (75 per cent, up by 20 per cent since 2001 ) is increasingly important to us.
According to respondents, picking foods that are easy to prepare (77 per cent ) and quick to cook (69 per cent ) are important considerations.
Irish people are embracing all things green and becoming more environmentally conscious, with environmental concerns increasing to 61 per cent, from 56 per cent in 2007.
One in two of us are concerned with the amount of food we throw away, while half of Irish consumers claim to always buy brands that use environmentally sensitive packaging.