Bord Bia’s Insight Centre – The Thinking House – has published research highlighting Irish consumer attitudes towards diet, eating habits, cooking and grocery shopping.

Bord Bia’s PERIscope project – the biggest quantitative study of its kind in Ireland – has documented consumer attitudes on a broad range of topics related to food since 2001, including local food, health and well-being and the environment.

The study was conducted across eight countries – Ireland, the UK, the US, China and four continental European markets. It took into account more than 8,000 interviews on the subject.

Speaking today, July 31, Grace Binchy, Consumer Insight Manager at Bord Bia, said: “This level of knowledge and consumer understanding allows our food and drink producers, selling at home and abroad, to make well-informed business decisions that serve customers’ needs better.

For instance, we know that nearly 70% of those surveyed want help to eat well.

“With this in mind, manufacturers should consider how they can help people to do just that, as well as digest nutritional labelling, create convenience in their lives and address changing perceptions around sustainability,” Binchy said.

The findings will be presented to Irish food and drink firms in a series of events taking place later this week.

Study findings

According to the findings of the report, 88% of Irish people acknowledged the importance of eating well and understood the link between diet and mental well-being.

The findings suggested that people believed they were establishing healthier eating habits – with one-third of those surveyed saying they were eating healthily. On the other hand, very few people were found to be following a healthy eating regime, with just 40% of the opinion that they ate a balanced diet.

From an agricultural perspective, meat intake split opinion; with 49% stating that they were eating less, while 51% said they were eating more.

According to the report, 50% of people admitted to being confused about what they should eat – with 60% claiming that nutritional information and food labels were difficult to understand.

Meanwhile, childhood obesity was less of a worry for parents than ever before, with only 21% concerned, compared to 35% in 2006.

Other significant findings included:
  • The perception of ‘low fat’ as a healthy choice has declined, down to 58% from 71% in 2006;
  • 59% checked products for sugar content – this increased to 71% for those who were conscious of their children’s sugar intake;
  • 94% claimed they tried to eat a lot of fruit and vegetables;
  • 84% tried to eat high-fibre foods;
  • 88% saw protein as an important part of their diet;
  • People were trying to eat less sugar and bad fat (98%), salt (96%), soft drinks (92%) and breads, cereals, pasta and rice (64%);
  • Most parents claimed they were trying to ensure their children had a balanced diet, but 40% admitted it was hard to convince children to eat vegetables.

Apart from health, other considerations such as price and ‘local produce’ had a bearing on attitudes.The importance of “buying local” peaked at 73% during the recession and was back to 67% in the latest survey.

However, checking for country of origin (78%) and quality symbols (75%) has become increasingly important.

In terms of value and price sensitivity, the focus on price has eased slightly since the recession. Price was level with 2005, when 52% said the first thing they looked at was price – compared to 60% in 2015.

Choosing food that was easy to prepare (77%) and quick to cook (69%) were important considerations too, according to the report.

The study also suggested that Irish people were becoming more environmentally conscious, with 61% of people taking this view – up from 56% 10 years ago. Some 50% of Irish people said they bought brands that used environmentally sensitive packaging.

For those interested in learning more, the full findings can be found on the Bord Bia website.