About 55 percent of Americans today consider sustainability when making food purchases, but what does this mean for the future of food? New data released this week shows that about 42 percent of consumers think that plant-based foods will overtake meat options by 2032. With mounting worries surrounding food insecurity and environmental disaster, plant-based solutions could help alleviate global issues, and now, consumers are beginning to agree.

The Grains of Truth 2022 report was conducted by GlobeSan and EAT to examine how the market felt about food insecurity, growing plant-based solutions, and sustainability. The collective surveyed 30,000 consumers across 31 markets worldwide to analyze international trends concerning food.

The survey questioned consumers about the future of food, and over four in 10 respondents claimed they felt consumers will favor plant-based foods over meat products. The report noted that this belief was more prevalent among younger consumers, especially in Africa and Asia, whereas North Americans and Europeans showed more skepticism.

“The fact that so many people around the world are becoming more interested in eating healthy and sustainable food is an encouraging sign, a few years ago it would be unthinkable that 42 percent of people globally would believe plant-based food will replace meat within a decade,” Dr. Gunhild Stordalen, EAT Founder and Executive Chair, said in a statement. “But the public is starting to understand the escalating climate and nature crises and the dangers it brings to their everyday lives as it intertwines with the pandemic, the war against Ukraine, and the accelerating cost of living crisis.”

More People Are Eating Vegetarian or Vegan

The survey also asked consumers about the contents of their diet, specifically regarding how they prioritize healthy eating. The poll found that 60 percent of consumers say they eat healthy foods most or all of the time. The section also shows a slight increase in consumer eating more vegan and vegetarian meals, rising from 17 percent in 2019 to 22 percent in 2022.

The survey data also revealed that plant-based dieting is increasingly popular in each age group. The data shows that 40 percent of Gen Z, 43 percent of Millennials, 37 percent of Gen X, and even 28 percent of Baby Boomers show interest in plant-based eating. This survey even shows that 89 percent percent of consumers globally care about environmentally responsible foods with 64 percent claiming that they would pay more for them.

“This timely research provides insight into how rising food prices, Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, and climate change have exacerbated consumer fears about food insecurity,” Chris Coulter, CEO of GlobeScan, said in a statement. “Nevertheless, there appears to be a hopeful shift to more healthy and sustainable eating among consumers.”

“Plant-based diets are on the rise in all regions of the world, and consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the link between climate change and food choices,” Coulter said.

Food Supply and Insecurity Worldwide

About 51 percent of consumers responded that they feel more food insecure due to factors such as COVID-19, international conflict, and climate change. GlobalScan and EAT conducted this study to examine how citizens worldwide felt about the solutions to growing food supply issues. The survey data revealed that 60 percent of respondents feel that food shortages and supply chain disruptions are extremely serious issues.

The data also varied significantly between regions. Several countries in Latin America showed higher signs of food insecurity including Brazil (73 percent) and Columbia (72 percent). Similar figures were reported in Kenya (77 percent) and Italy (64 percent).

These countries showed comparable responses to questions regarding the severity of food insecurity worries. This is contrasted with responses from China, Hong Kong, and South Korea, all of which showed the least worry.

Long-Term Risks of Increasing Meat Production

Facing food insecurity, several countries have turned to the animal agriculture industry to meet food demands for their populations. However, a new study released this month suggests that intensifying animal agriculture will result in long-term consequences for climate change and increased risks of more pandemics, despite short-term relief for food production.

"As long as meat consumption continues to rise globally, both climate change, from deforestation and methane, and pandemics will likely continue to rise," Matthew Hayek, an assistant professor in New York University's Department of Environmental Studies and the author of the analysis, said at the time.

The report suggests that the most effective solution to food insecurity is increased funding and support for sustainable food industries, including cultivated meat and plant-based production. With plant-based diets, consumers can reduce food-related greenhouse gas emissions by 61 percent. 

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