Shrinking the food-print: A qualitative study into consumer perceptions, experiences and attitudes towards healthy and environmentally friendly food behaviours.Appetite 2017; 108:117-131A
Internationally, there is increasing recognition of the importance of multilevel policies and actions that address healthy and environmentally friendly food behaviours. However it is not yet clear which actions are most suitable to support consumers to adopt both behaviours concurrently. To this end, we undertook a qualitative study to assess consumer perceptions, experiences and attitudes towards healthy and environmentally friendly foods and four target behaviours: reducing overconsumption of food beyond energy needs, reducing consumption of low-nutrient energy dense foods, eating less animal- and more plant-derived foods, and reducing food waste. Online in-depth interviews were held with 29 Australian food shoppers representing different levels of involvement with health and environment in daily food choices. The results indicate that compared to health, the relationship between food and the environment is rarely considered by consumers. The four target food behaviours were primarily associated and motivated by an impact on health, except for not wasting foods. Participants had the most positive attitude and highest motivation for eating less processed and packaged foods, mostly to avoid excessive packaging and 'chemicals' in foods. This was followed by the behaviours reducing food waste and overconsumption. Conversely, there was a predominantly negative attitude towards, and low motivation for, eating less animal-derived products and more plant based foods. Overall, consumers found a joined concept of healthy and environmentally friendly foods an acceptable idea. We recommend that health should remain the overarching principle for policies and actions concerned with shifting consumer behaviours, as this personal benefit appears to have a greater potential to support behaviour change. Future consumer focused work could pay attention to framing behavioural messages, providing intermediate behavioural goals, and a multiple target approach to change habitual behaviours.