Sandra Blaue
Institute of Market Analysis


Bundesallee 63
38116 Braunschweig
Phone: +49 531 596 5302
Fax: +49 531 596 5399

Sustainable diets - do labels matter?


 (c) Zusammenstellung von Thünen-Institut / Yvonne Feucht

SUSDIET Understanding consumer behaviour to
encourage a (more) sustainable food choice

There is a broad agreement on the need to identify and facilitate the adoption of more sustainable diets in Europe. However, controversy remains over the sustainability of alternatives diets as well as over ways to enhance sustainable consumption patterns among people.

Background and Objective

The project aims at defining the dietary targets to be promoted to European consumers. Combining surveys, experiments and economic modeling, the project aims to identify the factors preventing consumers from making sustainable dietary choices, as well as factors influencing the acceptability and the willingness to pay (WTP) for more sustainable foods. The project will analyse the impacts of policy instruments on the adoption of sustainable diets, such as supporting informed consumer choices or changing the market environment.

The Thünen Institute of Market Analysis aims to identify promising ways of communicating carbon footprints (CFP) to consumers and to detect reasons for diverging attitude and behavior with regard to healthy and sustainable diets and particularly CFP.


Starting point is a sound literature review on consumer preferences and choices on sustainable food with the emphasis on carbon footprint labeling. Internationally existing carbon footprint labeling schemes will be analysed with the aim of identifying success factors and barriers. Web-based surveys will be conducted in six European countries (DE, ES, FR, IT, NO, UK). By means of Choice Experiments different forms of carbon footprint labeling will be tested against each other and against other sustainability labels in order to identify consumer preferences. A questionnaire will accompany the choice experiments and will elicit consumers’ attitudes with particular emphasis on the role of time preference and uncertainty (risk) and their impact on choice behavior. In a follow-up research step qualitative in-depth interviews with consumers in Germany, France and UK will render a better understanding the underlying drivers of consumer behavior in the experiment and in reality.

Data and Methods

1. Online survey in 6 countries with

  • Choice Experiments and
  • standardized questionnaire

2. Qualitative in-depth interviews


Short summary of the results of all research steps:

Interest in CO2-labels:

  • In principal, consumers approve of CO2-labels. But climate-friendliness is frequently not the main reason for preferring certain products over others but rather a positive side-effect. The attributes 'locally' and 'eco-friendly' produced are frequently more important in the purchase decision. Additionally, many consumers feel overwhelmed with the information already offered at the point of sale. Therefore, a substantial use of CO2-labels by consumers is questionable.  If the introduction of CO2-labels is considered, consumers wish for one unified and reliable CO2-label. This reduces confusion and minimizes efforts for consumers.

Motives for acting climate-friendly:

  • Responsibility for future generations is the most frequently mentioned motive for purchasing climate-friendly products. In addition, many consumers feel obliged to engage against climate change.

Activities to tackle climate change:

  • Consumers are most willing to tackle climate change by buying seasonal fruits and vegetables. Also many consumers are prepared to drive less and fly less frequently. In contrast, the willingness to reduce meat and diary consumption is relatively low.

Responsibility to taking actions against climate change:

  • Governments and the economic sector (e.g., retailers) are foremost seen as responsible parties to tackle climate change. Simultaneously, consumers recognize the responsibility of every citizen to engage against climate change.

More detailed results of the choice experiments:

Results from the choice experiments (PDF 1276 KB)

The results will feed into other work packages and tasks of the transnational project. The results of different tasks and questions with regard to consumers’ attitudes and preferences on sustainable food worked on by different partners will be merged in order to map consumer preferences at a transnational level.

Links and Downloads


Involved external Thünen-Partners

Funding Body

  • Federal Office for Agriculture and Food (BLE)
    (national, öffentlich)


4.2014 - 9.2017

More Information

Projekt type:
Project funding number: 2814ERA03B
Funding program: EU – ERA-NET SUSFOOD
Project status: finished


hits: 2

  1. Feucht Y, Zander K (2017) Consumers’ attitudes on carbon footprint labelling - Results of the SUSDIET project. Braunschweig: Johann Heinrich von Thünen-Institut, 52 p, Thünen Working Paper 78, DOI:10.3220/WP1507534833000
    pdf document (limited accessibility) 832 kb
  2. Feucht Y, Zander K (2016) Climate change, carbon foodprint and labelling - consumer responses. SUSFOOD Newsl(4):3-4