Irish consumers want more sustainable food but not to pay for it, UCC survey finds

Research into market behaviour launched to coincide with annual food and beverage finance summit in Cork

While most Irish consumers want more sustainable food products, only a minority are willing to pay for them. That’s according to a new survey published to coincide with the annual food and beverage finance summit taking place at University College Cork on Wednesday.

It found that up to 60 per cent of Irish consumers said they wanted more sustainable products but only 30 per cent said they were prepared to pay a higher price.

The survey also found that demand for food produced to “higher sustainability standards” fell during the recent food price spike.

Farmers and food producers here have long complained that they are unfairly blamed for declining environmental standards or high emission levels while consumers buy or insist on cheaper and cheaper food in supermarkets.


The UCC report indicated that, during the recent commodity price shock which saw raw material and input costs for food and beverage producers rocket, companies came “under pressure from governments and consumers to limit price increases for the final customer”.

While European food and beverage companies have a combined market capitalisation (including food retail) of over €1 trillion and are set to invest €33 billion this year, supply chain disruptions due to geopolitical unrest and pirate activity in the Red Sea and problems in the Suez and Panama Canals, are prompting food and beverage companies to restructure their supply chains.

It also highlighted that medical developments such as the widespread availability of anti-obesity drugs will be a major disrupter for the sector in 2024 with a potential decrease in demand for ultra-processed food.

Technological developments are likely to assist companies in facing challenges, and major investment in artificial intelligence (AI) by food and beverage companies is expected, it said.

The report’s author, Prof Thia Hennessy, who is chair of agri-food business at Cork University Business School and head of the university’s department of food business, said: “The recent food price spike showed us that consumers and governments will resist food price increases and so food and beverage companies must continue to invest to deliver more environmentally sustainable and healthy products to the consumer at ever-more affordable prices.”

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy is Economics Correspondent of The Irish Times