Nestlé Nutrition Study

Majority of consumers want climate label for food

Nestlé Study 2021 "So klimafreundlich is(s)t Deutschland" shows: Three quarters of consumers want climate labels for food.
Nestlé Study 2021 "So klimafreundlich is(s)t Deutschland" shows: Three quarters of consumers want climate labels for food.

More and more consumers are demanding fast and comprehensive measures for a climate-friendly diet. According to the latest Nestlé nutrition study, climate protection is the mega topic despite the pandemic. But meat and dairy products remain a sticking point.

"The fight against climate change is a top priority for the people of Germany," writes Nestlé in a press release on the latest nutrition survey, which was just presented in Frankfurt together with the Allensbach Institute for Public Opinion Research.

According to the report, the population is united on the issue of climate change across all age, gender, education and income groups and also sees itself as having a duty to act.

Many people still do not understand the connections

However, many people are still not sufficiently aware of the essential connection between climate protection and nutrition. There are also "large gaps in information and the desire for orientation" when it comes to the practical implementation of a more climate-friendly diet.

Against this background, according to the study, three quarters of respondents are in favour of a climate label for food. For the "Nestlé Study 2021 - so klimafreundlich is(s)t Deutschland" (Nestlé Study 2021 - how climate-friendly is(s) Germany), 2511 citizens between the ages of 14 and 84 were surveyed online last March. 

"Sustainability is becoming increasingly important - especially when it comes to nutrition. The topic has reached the breadth of the population. Although the population attaches great importance to the topic, many are somewhat at a loss as to what exactly climate-friendly nutrition means in everyday life," explains Allensbach Managing Director Renate Köcher.

The desire for orientation is great, many consumers would like "more and very concrete help to be able to consciously decide on a more climate-friendly diet. This is where both politics and business can and must come in," says the professor.

Climate change requires immediate rethinking and action. It is a matter of "better understanding consumers through the study and making climate-conscious nutrition simple and recognisable for them".

As an example, Köcher cites varied offers for more climate-friendly meals and transparent labelling of climate-neutral products. "A European solution is important for this - a uniform approach with a clear methodology to offer people comparable labelling with real added value," adds Nestlé's Head of Germany Marc Boersch.

"In addition to more education, transparency and optimisation of the product portfolio", Nestlé has set itself far-reaching climate targets that would result in a change in its entire business. To protect the climate, Boersch is clearly in favour of "putting people and nature at the centre in the sense of a social, ecological and humane market economy". This also includes measuring the ecological footprint of products using life cycle assessments as a matter of course for corporate management purposes. 

"That is why we have also initiated concrete measures in our supply chains, processes and product portfolio to achieve green zero as a company worldwide by 2050," Boersch continued. The results of the study confirm that Nestlé is on the right track and provide further impetus.

Fight against climate change has highest relevance

The most important global challenge, according to 68 percent of respondents, is combating climate change - ahead of combating diseases and epidemics as well as environmental pollution (65 percent each), securing the world's food supply (56 percent) and stemming the flow of refugees (46 percent).

According to the survey, two thirds are (very) worried about the consequences of increasing global warming. Consequently, a clear majority (82 percent) calls for rapid and comprehensive measures to combat climate change. According to the study, 71 percent are even in favor of "considering drastic measures". This is because almost four out of five respondents fear that climate change will also have catastrophic effects on Germany.

Consumers see themselves as responsible

People in Germany are unanimous on the question of who is responsible for combating climate change: 90 percent think that it depends on the behavior of each individual.

The respondents believe that it is primarily the responsibility of industry to ensure better climate protection (68 percent), followed by consumers themselves (52 percent) as well as politics (50 percent) and trade (47 percent).

According to the study, commitment to combating climate change is now also widespread among the population: Around three quarters state that they have already done something concrete for climate protection. The Germans most frequently pay attention to using energy sparingly (84 percent) and buying in a climate-friendly way (67 percent).

The topic of nutrition ranks in the middle: 45 percent of those surveyed say they have already changed their behavior when it comes to eating and drinking. For more than half of the respondents, a lack of knowledge is the most important obstacle to more climate-friendly behavior. They do not know where to start and often have financial concerns (36 percent) and find it difficult to change habits (34 percent).

From the population's point of view, industry, waste avoidance or recycling, the transport sector and electricity and energy production are by far the most important areas when it comes to climate protection. Agriculture and food production are considered to be of medium relevance: just under half of the population consider them to be particularly important for climate protection.

Nutrition is not top of mind when it comes to climate issues

In contrast, only 34 percent see nutrition and diet as particularly relevant. "For the question of the climate compatibility of our diet, the population thus considers the production conditions to be more relevant than the type of products that are consumed," the study states.

Within the area of nutrition, however, consumers see the greatest potential for contributing to climate protection in themselves: 54 percent are convinced that they can do a great deal to advance climate protection. A similar number of respondents (52 percent) see industry as having a very great responsibility.

With regard to the menu, a climate-friendly diet is only of medium importance to the respondents (56 percent). Fruits and vegetables top the list as the most important dietary priority (83 percent), followed by delicious taste and freedom of choice (74 percent) and animal welfare issues (71 percent).

When it comes to the climate impact of nutrition, large sections of the population are not well informed. Only just under a third of those surveyed are confident enough to assess the climate friendliness of their own diet.

Regional products are still very popular

Spontaneously, according to the survey, regional products are part of a climate-friendly diet for 41 percent of people in Germany. They associate this primarily with avoiding the transport of food. Only with clear distance the restriction of the meat consumption follows (20 per cent). At the same time, 21 percent could not spontaneously say at all what they understand by climate-friendly nutrition.

The study shows that the population's ideas about climate-friendly nutrition are still not very well established. In first place, just under two thirds of those surveyed said that avoiding food waste was very important, followed by avoiding food for which forests are sometimes cleared on a large scale (57 percent), as well as regional (56 percent) and seasonal food (55 percent). Avoiding meat (22 percent) and animal products such as milk or cheese (14 percent) are at the bottom of the list.

Climate friendliness is not a top priority when it comes to shopping, but it is more important than organic for most respondents: 50 percent of respondents consider this important, 17 percent even very important.

At the same time, however, many sustainability criteria that are also important for climate protection played a very important role when buying food, for example animal welfare (38 percent very important), reusable packaging (33 percent), regionality (28 percent) and seasonality (25 percent). Organic products, on the other hand, rank significantly lower (11 percent). According to the Allensbach Institute, the importance of such sustainability criteria in food purchasing has increased significantly over the past decade.

Consumers want climate labels

A climate label is of central importance for consumer orientation. Around three quarters of those surveyed would find a climate label on food packaging important or even very important. A climate label would be particularly important for people who want to eat in a climate-friendly way and are prepared to spend more money on it. Over 90 percent of these people are in favour of this.

In general, the majority of the population (56 percent) is very or extremely willing to change their diet for climate protection. Around three quarters are also prepared to pay more for climate-friendly products, including 17 percent who would pay significantly more. Both the willingness to change and the willingness to pay are somewhat higher than average among women and in the upper social classes.

What the respondents themselves are already doing to eat in a more climate-friendly way, however, is almost universally very easy or easy for them. Only 3 percent of the population have already changed something in their diet that they found very difficult."Climate-friendly behaviour in the area of nutrition has thus hardly left the comfort zone sofar," is a sobering conclusion.

Meat and animal products are the sticking point

The willingness to change is particularly low when it comes to giving up meat or animal products such as milk or cheese: for 47 percent of the population it is out of the question to consume only a few animal products such as milk or cheese, and a further 16 percent would find this very difficult. 38 percent rule out giving up meat to a large extent, and a further 14 percent would find this difficult.

At the same time, the population as a whole is very open to plant-based meat substitutes. Around half have already eaten such products, of which only 12 percent did not like them. A further 16 percent of the population can imagine eating such products.

Acceptance of meat substitutes is also a question of age and educational level: openness is greatest in the 14 to 29 age group and among people with a higher level of education. However, a clear majority of convinced meat eaters (59 percent) cannot imagine consuming such products.

Half of those surveyed would be okay with a sharp price increase for meat for climate protection reasons, but 31 percent would explicitly not be okay with it. Only convinced meat eaters would reject this by a majority (60 percent). In the case of dairy products, only 44 percent of all respondents would agree to a price increase.

This text first appeared on