The world’s population is expected to reach nearly 10 billion people by 2050, requiring 56% more food than what’s available today. Meeting the demands of the future will require  developing a sustainable way forward for food production and consumption.

Changing what consumers buy, especially food, is a key first step. However, food shopping is a predominantly habitual process, and changing behavior poses significant challenges.

The Better Buying Lab brings together the brightest and best minds from consumer research, behavioral economics and marketing strategy — to research, test and scale new strategies and plans that help consumers select sustainable foods and waste less of the foods they purchase. The Lab explores ways to increase people’s purchasing of plant-based foods, which use natural resources efficiently and reduce agriculture’s pressure on land, water and the climate. It also leads research on how to help consumers change their behavior to waste less of the food they buy. 

The Better Buying Lab and its members identified three core focus areas for significant change and potential for innovation: 

1. Transforming Food Industry Communication

Many mainstream consumers find terms like “vegetarian,” “vegan” or “healthy”  unsavory. The Better Buying Lab is working to create a new lexicon that restaurants, food retailers and cafeterias can use to describe plant-based food, its dishes and their benefits in a way that appeals to mainstream consumers who do not consider themselves vegetarian or vegan. This language must evoke positive meanings, values and benefits, and it should be adaptable and adoptable by many different brands and outlets. The Lab aims to scale the adoption of effective terms throughout a range of outlets.

2. Popularizing Plant-rich Dishes 

Dishes with strong consumer awareness and wide appeal — known as “power dishes” —need to taste great and be widely known. The Better Buying Lab is identifying and developing a handful of sustainable, plant-rich dishes that have the potential to become power dishes. The Lab is coordinating efforts to increase these dishes’ distribution across the food industry and raise consumer awareness and selection of these dishes.   Developing plant-rich power dishes requires a range of approaches, from reformulating existing dishes to be completely plant-based to introducing concepts that blend traditionally meat-based foods with more vegetables.

3. Identifying  Environmental Metrics, Targets and Methods

Moving people toward more plant-based diets will make progress toward Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement. The Better Buying Lab is identifying the key methods and metrics that can help companies measure and monitor the environmental impacts of the foods they source and sell to consumers. The Lab is also developing science-based targets that can help the food industry ensure its efforts are ambitious enough to achieve a sustainable future.

Photo Credit: Melissa Askew/Unsplash.