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Sustainable Food Monitor 2021: Share of sustainable food purchases increases

Consumers spent €9.5 billion on sustainable food in 2021. We are spending more and more on products with sustainability labels like Beter Leven, Organic, and Rainforest Alliance.

These are the conclusions of the Sustainable Food Monitor 2021, which was carried out by Wageningen University & Research and commissioned by the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature, and Food Quality. The Monitor scrutinizes consumer spending on products with a sustainability label in three sales channels: supermarkets, food service (such as hospitality and catering businesses), and specialty shops that sell sustainable food. The labels included in the study were ASC, Organic, Beter Leven, Fairtrade, MSC, On the way to PlanetProof, Rainforest Alliance, UTZ Certified, and Vrije Uitloop.

Share of spending on food with a sustainability label increases
The share of sustainable food in total food spending increased from 17% to 19%. Both the supply and demand for these products have risen. Spending on products with a sustainability label increased in almost all product groups. Total spending on sustainable food increased by 12% in 2021 compared to 2020. This increase was particularly visible in the supermarkets. Total spending on food in general (including products without the above labels) increased by 1% in 2021, but just like in 2020, this was still lower than in the previous years. Due to the coronavirus restrictions in hospitality and catering, spending in this sector was lower than in previous years, just as in 2020.

Spending per sales channel

  • In the food service sector (including hospitality and catering businesses and healthcare institutions), food sales recovered somewhat in 2021. Spending on sustainable food rose by 6% in this sector, while total spending on food increased by 8%. The coronavirus restrictions meant that food service spending in 2021 was still lower than in the years preceding the pandemic.
  • Supermarkets did show an increase in purchases of sustainable food of 14%. Supermarkets thus contributed the most to the increase in total spending on sustainable food. Total spending on all types of food in supermarkets was relatively high in 2021, just as in 2020, despite a slight decrease of 1% in 2021. This was a result of the coronavirus restrictions in the food service channel in the second corona year.
  • Specialty shops for sustainable food showed an increase in turnover of 2%. These shops primarily sell foodstuffs of organic and/or biodynamic origin.

Spending on sustainability labels
The largest percentage increase in spending was seen in products with the Rainforest Alliance label (+110%) and the On the Way to PlanetProof label (+32%). The increase in spending on products with a Rainforest Alliance label was partly due to the merger between Rainforest Alliance and UTZ Certified in 2018. A new standard and logo were subsequently developed under the Rainforest Alliance name. The growth of On the Way to PlanetProof was mainly due to expansion in the supermarket channel. Consumers spent the most on products with the Beter Leven label (about €3.2 billion), followed by Organic (€1.6 billion). Rainforest Alliance-certified products followed with €1.3 billion.

More sustainable products bought in almost all product groups compared to 2020

  • Meat and meat products (€2.2 million, +3% growth compared to 2020), Long-life products, ready meals and other (€1.6 million, +27%), and Dairy (€1.2 million, +12%) were the product groups with the largest share of consumer spending on sustainable food in 2021
  • The Beverages product group showed the largest increase in sales of sustainable alternatives in 2021 (+36%). The increase was caused by the rise of labels such as Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance, and Organic in this product group, in particular in the juices category.
  • Long-life products, ready meals and other (+€338 million), and Potatoes, fruit, and vegetables (+€201 million) were the product groups with the largest absolute increase in sales in the period 2020-2021.
  • Eggs and Non-specified food showed a decrease of 3% and 4% respectively in spending on products with a sustainability label. Spending on all categories of eggs fell by 4%. A proportion of free-range eggs could not be sold under a label in 2021 due to the requirement to keep birds indoors in connection with avian flu.

For more information:
Wageningen University & Research


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