Inflation, a brake on sustainable consumption

Inflation, a brake on sustainable consumption

Consuming less is good for the planet. And in this the historical decline in food purchases by the French since 1980 could be considered a significant asset. Except that the increase in prices also prevents consumers from changing their eating habits…

INSEE updated this Friday the level of inflation currently measured in Europe. According to this index, the momentum of the price spike continues to ease, with consumer prices rising 4.3% in July year on year. But in terms of food, shopping is still a budgetary issue for the French, with prices up 12.7% over one year.

Inflation that has consequences on the plate of the French

In certain departments, such as milk, cheese and eggs, the outbreak is around 17.9%. Unsurprisingly, consumers arbitrate by favoring one product over another, one range of items over another (this is the effect of trading down, editor’s note), or otherwise by simply buying less.

According to INSEE calculations relayed by the professional magazine Réussir, French food purchases have fallen by 11.4% over the past 18 months. The Institute of Statistics had never spotted such a fall since it measured this type of purchase in 1980. Today’s consumer can no longer be yesterday’s. A recent analysis by NielseniQ indicated that customers were more often making small errands, abandoning the trolley in favor of the basket, to increase more visits to stores, and thus better control their budget.

Sustainable consumption: yes, but not right away…

Nowadays, the consumer does not share exactly the same profile as in the past, if only because of the environmental context and the need to act to better preserve the planet. According to a recent study by the start-up Varda, identified by the webzine Greenqueen, 63% of Britons, among a sample of 1,000 people questioned, are aware that it is necessary to adopt behavior in line with sustainable development.

And yet, while 70% say they are concerned about how the food chain will be supplied in the future, more than half (55%) of Britons have not changed their eating habits in order to be more in tune with the climate emergency. We all know the adage: it’s the intention that counts. We can therefore only congratulate these 71% of consumers across the Channel who have planned to change the way they eat to have less impact on the planet.

Prices that prevent you from going sustainable

Except that it is complicated to associate words with actions in an inflationary context. Rising food prices have indeed had an impact on the choices and habits of 89% of British consumers. While German supermarkets Penny have caused a stir in recent days by doubling the prices of certain items to make the environmental cost of their production more concrete, only 29% of Britons would be willing to pay more for a more environmentally friendly product. ‘environment. Moreover, 86% of the sample would not want to put their hand in their pocket beyond 25%.

The financial reality of inflation for households only raises the problem of the excessive cost of food that is more respectful of the environment. An obvious fact that is verified all over the world. 45% of consumers in Europe, Asia and the Middle East consider these far too expensive, revealed the latest report from the Chinese giant Alibaba. The price is indeed a stumbling block for sustainable consumption since 33% of respondents felt that by making the products concerned more accessible, consumer choices would be more in line with the climate emergency. The decline in organic purchases in Europe is a perfect illustration of this (-7.4% in 2022).

NO to diets, YES to WW!

Less food waste

However, we cannot completely darken the picture. Because in a context of arbitration and lower consumption, the planet also has to gain, especially at a time when greenhouse gas emissions linked to food production have increased by 14% over the past twenty years, according to a study published in the journal Nature Food. Take the example of meat. Last March, the Climate Action Network revealed that nearly six out of ten French people consumed fewer steaks than three years ago. For 58% of them, the problem is clearly the price. If consumers are recomposing their menu, they are also paying more attention to food waste. In September 2022, nearly half of French households (48%) had indicated to the Kantar Institute that they were planning to throw less leftover meals in the trash to try to reduce the impact of inflation on their budget.