Jun 26, 2020
To help inform policy and research around food consumption, RAND Europe conducted a rapid evidence assessment to provide an overview of the evidence around the trends related to consumer food practices and attitudes in the UK; the drivers of food consumption; interventions that can influence food consumption; and the differences between groups (i.e. segmentation). The research identified four key priority areas for consideration by policymakers.
What we eat has big implications for our health, our society and the environment. Unhealthy and nutritionally poor diets lead to ill health. The current food system and people's food practices have negative impacts on the environment, leading to greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation and biodiversity loss. Addressing these complex challenges requires changing how food is produced to ensure it is more sustainable, and, importantly, changing consumption to ensure it is healthier and more sustainable. Therefore, understanding food consumption trends, what drives them and how we can change consumption practices through interventions is crucial to inform policy.
The aim of this study commissioned by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs was to provide an overview of the existing evidence in four main areas: (1) the trends related to consumer food practices and attitudes, and to the changing food environment (e.g. out-of-home sector, online retail models) in the UK; (2) the drivers of consumption (e.g. the role of information or food system actors); (3) interventions that can influence food consumption practices; and (3) the differences between groups, or 'food publics', across the trends, drivers and interventions (i.e. segmentation). Researchers conducted a rapid evidence assessment, with a focus on identification of existing evidence and evidence gaps within high-quality, primarily academic literature from the last ten years. This report provides evidence around these questions and identifies areas of uncertainty where more evidence is required and, based on this, suggests a number of priority areas for further research and action by policymakers.
Why food consumption matters
Consumption trends – what foods are people consuming, where and how?
Drivers of consumption – what influences food consumption practices?
Individual and social differences – how do different people make decisions about food?
Interventions – how can policymakers influence food consumption decisions?
Reflections – what does the evidence say about food consumption in the UK, and what should policymakers do next?
Approach and methodology