You are here

How Language Can Advance Sustainable Diets

A Summary of Expert Perspectives on How Research into the Language of Plant-based Food Can Change Consumption

Food production significantly impacts the environment, but different types of food have different effects. Generally, producing meat, especially from ruminants (cattle, sheep, and goats), uses more land and water and emits more greenhouse gases than producing plant-based foods. Therefore, in countries with high meat consumption, shifting diets to include more plant-based foods and less meat can reduce agriculture’s pressure on natural resources.

One potentially high-impact but low-cost strategy to help consumers shift their diets is changing the language used to describe food. Existing research has shown that how food is described influences what people choose, and that many plant-based dishes have names that are not appealing to people who normally eat meat. However, this area is nascent. More research can reveal the potential of improved language to drive consumption of plant-based foods.

Over the course of two workshops held in the United States and United Kingdom, the Better Buying Lab convened more than 50 leading academics and practitioners from the food industry to identify the most powerful research questions that, if answered, can improve the language of plant-based food and shift more consumers toward more sustainable diets.

Through these workshops, participants identified five questions to guide future research. This report also summarizes participant recommendations on the key actions required to advance this research and ensure findings are widely adopted by business and society.

Executive Summary

Stay Connected