Sustainable Nutrition Monitor 2019

Published on
November 17, 2020

We spent 18 per cent more on sustainable food in 2019 compared to the previous year. Consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable food, of which the supply is steadily increasing. Of the over 56 billion euros we spent on food last year, 7.7 billion was spent on sustainable nutrition, up from 6.5 billion in 2018. This information is contained in the Wageningen Economic Research Sustainable Nutrition Monitor.

Wageningen Economic Research conducted studies in supermarkets, food service (catering) and in shops specialised in sustainable food. The product types investigated were potatoes, fruits and vegetables, bread, grains, cookies and pastries, eggs, products with a long shelf-life, composite meals, coffee, tea, fish, meat, cold cuts, dairy and beverages. 

In the Sustainable Nutrition Monitor, food is considered sustainable if, during the production and processing thereof, environment, animal welfare and social aspects are taken into consideration to a degree beyond the mere legal requirements. The food must also be clearly identifiable to the consumer through an independently monitored quality label.

Greatest increase for On The Way to PlanetProof

The On The Way to PlanetProof quality label merits special mention, as it has only recently been introduced for many products such as potatoes, onions, fruit, vegetables, herbs, dairy, eggs and beverages. There is a fair chance that when randomly choosing a product, you will find one with this label. The result of this wider scope is a five-fold increase in turnover in 2019 from 2018: 492%.

On The Way to PlanetProof is based on a holistic approach and encompasses various sustainability issues such as climate, soil, landscape, biodiversity, water and animal welfare. Other included quality labels ASC, Biologisch (organic), Beter Leven (better life), Fair Trade/Max Havelaar, MSC, Rainforest Alliance, UTZ Certified, Label Rouge and  Vrije Uitloop (free-range). These labels show an increase of between 5% and 14%.

The Beter Leven products were the most frequently sold items, with a turnover of some 2.8 billion euros in 2019. Runner-up is the Biologisch label with a 1.6 billion euro revenue, followed by UTZ at 1.5 billion.

Supermarkets and food service are becoming more sustainable

Supermarkets, to begin with, show a considerable increase in consumers switching to sustainable choices. We bought some 19% more products with a sustainability quality label than the previous year. In food services, sustainable options increased by 16%. The increase is the lowest in specialised shops: up 2% from the last year.

Foodservice: much sustainable dairy

In food services such as catering, care homes and recreational facilities, the expansion of the On The way to PlanetProof label has caused a significant increase in the use of sustainable dairy products. This is reflected in a 78% increase in the use of dairy. The use of eggs, vegetables and fruit decreased by 12% and 11% respectively. There is no clear explanation for this effect. The increase is the most notable in care facilities, with a 42% rise. In on-the-go shops, such as in aircraft, cars and trains, the revenues for sustainable food dropped by 11%.

Steep competition among organic shops

Sustainable shops, specialised in organic and biodynamic food, are competing with supermarkets since 2015. Supermarkets are often able to offer organic food against competitive prices. In 2019 there was a 2% increase in revenues, which is partially caused by the rise in VAT from 6% to 9%. This means that the de facto results show a drop in turnover. Dairy shows the most significant increase, while other products such as bread, grains, pastries, eggs and fish show moderate growth.

Expenditures increase in almost all product groups

Consumers spent the most on meat, cold cuts, coffee, tea, composite meals and products with a long shelf-life. Eggs and dairy show a sharp increase in expenditures, compared to last year. Sustainable dairy was selected 81% more than last year, and eggs 58% more. Meat and cold cuts show a 10% rise.

Who commissioned the Monitor?

The sustainable nutrition monitor was commissioned by the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (Dutch acronym: LNV). The ministry wants insight into the extent to which food chains in the Netherlands are increasingly sustainable.