Antti Isokangas: Soon there will be demand for sustainable, versatile, healthy food
A plant-based diet is healthier for people and more sustainable for the environment. There has been a lot of talk about reducing meat consumption in recent years, but we have yet to see a dramatic change. However, according to young people, they are about to change the situation.
Last year, we conducted a study for the ScenoProt project, examining the views of young people on nutrition, diet and how they expect eating habits to change over the next ten years. 300 people between the ages of 16 and 22 across Finland responded to the survey.
According to the results, a large majority of the young respondents believe they will eat more vegetables and plant-based protein in the future. Half of the respondents expected to reduce their consumption of meat.
The survey showed that young people have sensible and reality-based ideas on what constitutes healthy, and on average, are reasonably well-informed on issues related to nutrition. The respondents were first asked to estimate their own level of knowledge. They were then asked to answer questions that measured that knowledge. Most respondents had a fairly good level of knowledge, but on average, the people interested in vegetarian food were slightly better informed than the rest. There is a clear correlation, but we could not establish causation.
A clear majority of the respondents were omnivores. Approximately 7% considered themselves vegetarians to some degree (~1-2% vegans), and some 20% often ate vegetarian dishes or had vegetarian days at least once a week. The percentages echo those of other studies conducted on this topic in recent years. Young women are clearly more interested in plant-based foods than young men. Since as according to the National FinDiet 2017 Survey by the National Institute for Health and Welfare, the food habits of adults and men in particular are currently far removed from recommendations, we can easily identify some of the key challenges for our food system.
We need to come up with ideas on how to make young men eat healthier. As forcing rarely leads to good results, we need to rather make the product selections, communication and positioning more versatile and appealing to a wider audience.
Young people welcome new plant-based (and other) food innovations. Over 80% of the respondents in our survey stated they were at least somewhat interested in trying out new food products as long as it was made sufficiently easy. One-fifth were even happy to put in a little effort to be able to try out new products.
There is thus fertile ground for new plant-based food products, and this opens up many new possibilities for the Finnish food chain. Hopefully, we’ll also be able to export more Finnish food innovations abroad.