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Eight in 10 consumers are aware of the connection between the environment and their food choices, according to Kearney’s 2022 Earth Day Survey, and many take this connection into consideration when buying food. “We are entering into a new era of climate-conscious eating – giving rise to the Climavores,” said Corey Chafin, associate partner in Kearney’s consumer practice.

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Kearney found that consumers are more likely to consider environmental impact when purchasing food in the grocery store (27%), as compared to online (21%) or in restaurants (15%). Younger consumers (age 18-44) are 1.5-2X more likely to think about the environment than older consumers.

As a group, climavores are less interested in restrictive diets (like vegan or vegetarian), and instead seek to make more planet-friendly choices without avoiding categories entirely. For example, 83% of respondents are willing to substitute for beef at least once a week, preferring (in order) fish, chicken, pork, and plant-based protein.

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There are still significant barriers to environmentally friendly eating. A full half of the survey respondents said that the foods are too expensive. In addition, many don’t want to adopt a vegetarian/vegan diet, think environmentally friendly products don’t taste as good as the “real” thing, and also feel alienated by plant-based alternatives. The percentage of omnivores who say they will likely purchase plant-based alternatives in the next 12 months fell from 68% in March 2021 to 62% in March 2022.

Overall, Kearney suggests that food manufacturers looking to appeal to climavores, and also meet their environmental impact targets (such as GHG emissions), should look beyond plant-based to products (like cultivated meat) that more closely resemble the items they’re trying to replace. Price parity with traditional products will also be key.