The survey, conducted by Irish agency Bord Bia and launched at the Sial international food conference in Paris, looked at the shopping behaviour of a representative sample of adults aged 18 and over in France, Germany, Spain, Sweden and the Netherlands.
It revealed that 63 per cent of French consumers said that they choose food with minimal packaging and 63 per cent of Spanish consumers claim they prefer to buy from companies aware of environmental issues.
The agency said a sample size of over 1,000 was obtained for each region to ensure comparable statistically robust data at a national level.
The fieldwork, according to the agency, was undertaken during May and June 2008.
The study found that awareness levels for environmental terms differ across countries, and that the majority of countries evaluated are not aware of food miles.
The Spanish are most aware of the term ‘carbon footprint’ (67 per cent) while only 39 per cent of Dutch adults have ever heard of it.
“One quarter of all Spanish, German and Swedish adults claim that carbon footprints impact on their shopping choices,” states the study.
According to the research, there is much greater awareness of the term sustainability and it has some impact on the way consumers purchase their food:
“Sustainability impacts on almost half of all Swedish shoppers’ choices and over a third of French shopper’s choices.”
The study found that all of the countries understood sustainability to mean ‘meeting the needs of present without compromising future generations needs’ and secondly ‘production practices that have no future effect on the environment’.
There is also a greater incidence of ‘always checking’ for country of origin, states the survey, with the majority of the participants citing they want to know where their food comes from:
“This is quite strong amongst the Swedes with almost half always checking country of origin, while the French and Spanish are most likely to check for a quality symbol,” claims the survey.
The report said that a large proportion of Dutch adults do not look for either a quality symbol or for country or origin.
The survey, which Bord Bia said is the second wave of a series looking at the attitudes and behaviour of Continental consumers, also evaluated the eating and cooking habits of the participants.