Bord Bia insights to drive market diversification & new opportunities

New global research from Bord Bia on the dietary lifestyles of over 18,000 people across 9 countries, including Ireland, has highlighted that consumers are taking a more balanced approach to their diets and are purchasing more conscientiously than ever before as a global reset towards dietary inclusivity gains momentum.

The Dietary Lifestyles Report is an update on Bord Bia’s 2018 study and aims to understand how dietary lifestyles have evolved in recent years taking account of seismic changes brought about by global developments including the Covid-19 pandemic.

In particular, this study examines consumers’ relationships with protein and alternative proteins. The research will help inform and enable companies to harness the opportunities posed by new dietary lifestyles.

Of the 18,591 nationally representative adults that were interviewed in 9 countries, 70% said that they do not adhere to any particular diet or food lifestyle; and 55% responded that while they try to follow a balanced diet, they don’t stick to a specific diet.

Consumers are becoming less rigid in how they approach their food consumption; as the study found that while many (30%) aspire to follow - or be associated - with a particular diet, it doesn’t always translate into actual behaviour. Almost 1 in 5 (19%) adhere to a flexitarian diet (16% in Ireland), 9% to a vegetarian diet (8% in Ireland) and 2% to a vegan diet (2% in Ireland).

Health and sustainability are still the main drivers of consumer interest in following a specific dietary lifestyle, with 81% of people deeming themselves to be very healthy and 65% of people making more of an effort to be aware of the environment around them.

These trends have been accentuated since the onset of Covid-19, with 64% saying that eating healthily is a priority for them now (versus 12 months ago). Almost 1 in 2 (47%) of global consumers reported that ethically and sustainably sourced ingredients are more important to them than before the pandemic, and a significant proportion (27%) are willing to pay more for food that is sustainably produced.

Convenience remains a significant challenge to following a specific dietary lifestyle, with almost half (47%) stating that the ease of meal preparation was a challenge after initially committing to a specific diet.

Accessing food which delivers the right nutrients (iron, B12, fats, carbs and proteins) can also be a hurdle for some and the main barrier amongst those who would not consider following a vegan diet, as 29% believe it is not a healthy balanced/diet.

There are also growing perceptions that plant-based foods can be too processed – 30% of consumers surveyed said meat free alternatives are overly processed. Affordability also remains a challenge, with 18% of those who have stopped vegan/vegetarian diets saying they did so because it was too expensive.

The report sets out a range of actions and opportunities for Ireland’s food and drink industry to consider when engaging consumers and will enable companies to better understand consumers’ dietary lifestyles, preferences and dietary drivers.

Grace Binchy, Consumer Insights & Trends Specialist at Bord Bia, commented on the new research, “This research provides valuable and detailed insights for Irish food and drink companies to help them understand the significant market opportunities posed by evolving dietary lifestyles and new dietary dynamics.

'It’s incredibly interesting to see that consumers are moving away from rigid interpretations of diets and specific lifestyles and are leading a global reset towards balanced diets and dietary inclusivity.

'Health and sustainability are at the heart of this as people seek to look after themselves, their families’ and the planet through conscientious purchase decisions towards foods that are sustainable, ethically sourced and healthy.”