If you are among the 55 percent of consumers who consider the impact your grocery choices have on the environment, you may be a climatarian. That's the term for someone who considers the impact of their food choices on the planet as they make their selections.

The term climatarian was first coined back in 2015 and entered the dictionary shortly thereafter. The Cambridge Dictionary defines a climatarian as “a person who chooses what to eat according to what is least harmful to the environment.”

But now climatarians appear to make up more than half of all consumers, according to a new survey just released from Cargill, one of the largest meat producers on the planet. The source of the consumer trend information is ironic, given the fact that meat and pork are the first things climatarians give up as a way of lowering their impact on the environment. Animal agriculture, especially "big farming" practiced by Cargill, is among the greatest contributors of methane produced by any industry.

So when Cargill surveyed consumers and found that 55 percent of people say they are more likely to buy food that does not harm the environment, we wondered what they thought.

Climatarians are on the rise

When the UN released its powerful report, that called a “code red” for the planet, and urged first word countries to stop eating meat for the sake of the climate, no one was surprised. And recently the Netflix blockbuster Don’t Look Up, somewhat parodied the fact that consumers worldwide are trying to not have to pay attention to the biggest threat to mankind and the planet, though instead of a meteor it's global warming. And 2021 was the most costly on record for $145 Billion plus climate disasters that caused flooding, fires, and fatal storms that devastated much of the US and Europe last year.

So it's no surprise that more consumers have begun to understand the importance of sustainable choices that they make every day, including the foods that we eat. The shift toward plant-based foods started even before the pandemic but now seems to have taken on new steam. And now, every major food corporation is looking to reduce its climate impact, through packaging, transportation, and even the type of food that it creates. Nestle and other major companies are investing big into plant-based food production. So it's not surprising that Cargill – one of North America’s largest meat producers – had commissioned a survey around sustainability and eating habits. It found 55 percent of people claim that they would be more likely to purchase food that includes a sustainability promise.

Cargill conducted its global FATitudes survey to determine what motivates current customer behavior as more people than ever purchase plant-based foods. The survey marked a four percent jump from the last survey conducted in 2019, indicating a worldwide increase in sustainability concerns. Cargill surveyed 6,000 grocery shoppers in 11 countries.

“Our latest findings clearly demonstrate that messages surrounding sustainability are having an impact on consumers,” Managing Director of Strategy and Innovation for Cargill’s Global Edible Oils business Nese Tagma said. “Insights like these help guide our consumer-focused approach to innovation, enabling us to partner with customers to co-create new products and solutions that reflect current consumer trends and ingredient preferences.”

The Cargill study also revealed specific spikes in sustainability concerns from across the world. Sustainability considerations for Brazil and Mexico consumers rose by 13 percent between the two surveys. Now, sustainability claims influence purchase decisions for 74 percent of consumers in Brazil and 66 percent in Mexico.

Americans lag behind other countries

Within the United States, sustainability motivators trail behind other countries at 37 percent, however, the figure still represents a 6 point increase from 2019. The United Kingdom also experienced a significant rise between the two surveys, jumping 8 points to 51 percent. India’s results fell closer to Brazil and Mexico with 67 percent of consumers likely to choose products with sustainability claims. The survey also included participants from China, France, Germany, the Philippines, Russia, and Australia.

“These insights further affirm our commitment to embed sustainable practices into every aspect of our operations,” Chief Technology Officer and Vice President of Innovation and R&D for Cargill Florian Schattenmann said. “This includes everything from our sourcing practices to processing facilities, and even extends to new product development, where decisions to commercialize innovations now consider sustainability alongside performance and cost.”

Cargill Sees a Plant-Based Future

With current market reports projecting that the plant-based market will exceed $162 billion by 2030, food giants like Cargill have felt pressure to develop vegan and sustainable sectors. Last year, Cargill CEO David MacLennan revealed that he believes that plant-based protein will significantly cut into the sales of meat in the near future. While the prediction itself is nothing revolutionary, it sets a new precedent for major food companies worldwide.

“Our analysis is that in three to four years plant-based will perhaps be 10 percent of the market. We’re a large beef producer and that is a big part of our portfolio,” MacLennan said. “So there’s some cannibalization that will occur.”

Prior to Cargill's announcement, CNN released a segment entitled “How Meat is Making the Planet Sick” that exposed the dangerous and harmful effects of meat production. The documentary short aimed to influence animal agriculture companies to incorporate sustainable production methods and move away from meat production.

Cargill also joins other international meat producers as sustainability concerns rise. JBS Foods recently announced that it would invest $100 million into cultured meat, marking a first for the cultured meat industry. Tyson Foods is developing its Raised & Rooted line, releasing a plant-based burger to cater to the growing number of plant-based consumers.

Tyson also followed JBS Foods’ example and invested in the cell-based meat industry, helping close Future Farm’s historical $347 million funding round. The sustainable investments will help curb meat- and dairy-related greenhouse gas emissions, which current studies estimate is responsible for 87 percent of food-related greenhouse gas emissions. Now, as consumers begin to prioritize sustainability, the leading contributors to food production-related greenhouse have emissions have no choice but to adopt new practices.

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