Understanding the motivation and willingness among UK consumers to eat healthier, more sustainable foods

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14 January, 2021




New WBCSD report explains how to motivate and enable companies to successfully shift consumer diets to healthy and sustainable options.

Geneva, 14 January 2021 – Today, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) released a research paper exploring the motivation and willingness to eat healthier, more sustainable foods among three consumer segments in the UK.

To conduct this research, we selected 3 focus consumer segments in the UK with poor health outcomes and identified the diet driving factors that would enable them to choose healthier, more sustainable foods. We also ideated a list of actions for additional research and testing.  

This research gives a first indication about the understanding, motivation and willingness to eat healthier alternatives for three consumer segments in the UK and outlines four priorities areas of action:

  • Target actual consumer preferences:  food positioning should not necessarily highlight “health” as the main attribute, but instead focus on what matters most to each segment
  • Build credible knowledge of healthy alternatives: the credibility of health/sustainability information sources will need to increase to be impactful
  • Offer guidance and convenience: make healthy diets easy to structure, easy to find and simple to prepare 
  • Leverage social relationships: use social circle and influencers (such as gym instructors and celebrity chefs) to induce eaters to try healthy foods and to build the credibility of healthy offerings

Shifting diets is a key lever to creating better planetary and human health outcomes. Generating market demand creates incentive for companies to expand their healthy and sustainable portfolios. With this research, WBCSD aims to develop an understanding of the diverse factors that influence consumers’ diets and create a shared view of how they differ per consumer segment. This knowledge allows us to better craft coalitions and actions that will enable companies to generate demand for healthier, more sustainable food alternatives.

This research was led by Bain & Company in collaboration with members of WBCSD’s Food Reform for Sustainability and Health (FReSH) project – Bel Group, Tesco and Unilever.

Based on this work, the natural next steps to support the effort of shifting consumer behavior to healthier and more sustainable options would be to focus on the four areas of action we uncovered, by developing and implementing tests, tools and training programs for concrete action.

Alongside the development of the specific individual and collective measures aligned with the priority areas above, we encourage companies to sign on to the Responsible Business Pledge for Better Nutrition in the context of the 2021 Nutrition for Growth Summit. The pledge aims to find innovative ways to drive progress collectively, generating clear and meaningful commitments and actions to tackle the global challenge of malnutrition – undernutrition, overnutrition, obesity, overweight, and micronutrient deficiencies.

FReSH is currently launching a new workstream on consumer behavior change, drawing on the recently launched Sustainable and Healthy Diets Chapter of the Food and Agriculture Roadmap, this report, our toolkit published in August 2020 looking at attitudes and behaviors related to healthy and sustainable food in Mexico, and more. The workstream will be organized around two pillars: 1) Creating the enabling environment for healthy and sustainable food choices; and 2) Empowering consumers to choose healthy and sustainable food. The report being launched today fits within this second pillar.  

For more information, please contact:

Sylvain Maibach, Manager Communication Food & Nature