Research - 28.11.2019 - 00:00 

Study of eating habits in Switzerland: More and more people are eating a "flexitarian" diet

New food trends are playing a big part in daily media coverage. Industry, trade and restaurant businesses are reacting with innovation. This is reflected in the food on offer: health, taste, price and consumption are being re-evaluated. But the place where people eat is also undergoing radical change. Many restaurants and other stationary vendors are having to rethink their business model, as shown in a study by the Institute of Retail Management at the University of St.Gallen (IRM-HSG).

28 November 2019. Professor Thomas Rudolph and his team at the Institute of Retail Management at the University of St.Gallen looked into the eating habits of the Swiss population. In 2019, over 800 consumers in German-speaking Switzerland were asked for the fifth time (after 2003, 2005, 2008 and 2014) about their eating preferences in order to examine current developments from a consumer point of view. The study describes the status quo for eating habits and the most important trends in the food market, also indicating the gaps between the current range of food on offer and consumer expectations.

Eating is becoming more and more important

The evaluation of the study showed that for 91% of respondents, diet is a rather important to very important issue for them (+13% compared to 2014). However, satisfaction with their own diet fell compared to 2014. Once again, the main reasons for this are a lack of self-discipline and a lack of time. Low carb and high protein diets are gaining in popularity. Instead of a strict vegetarian or vegan diet, more and more consumers are becoming flexitarians. In 2019, the three most popular diets have been high protein (13% of the respondents follow this diet), wholefood diet (11%) and low carb (9%). Instead of blindly trusting diets or diet products, the respondents deal with their own nutrition themselves and come up with their own personal diets.

Meals at work are becoming more popular

Consumers are increasingly eating their meals outside of the home. Compared to 2014, breakfast and lunch are eaten less and less at home.

Breakfast on the go and at work is gaining in popularity; an increasing number of respondents are having their lunch in the canteen or at their desk.

Regional products are in high demand

The popularity of regional products continues to rise: 68% of respondents claimed to frequently buy food from their region. Among the food that respondents bought most, regional products ranked second after healthy products. When buying food, consumers primarily want to see an increase in value in the form of added value, quality and good value for money – cheap food came out in last place. The criteria for making a purchase that was mentioned the least was price alone. Just 16% of respondents deemed it to be especially relevant. On the question concerning obstacles to a better diet, a lack of money also doesn’t seem to be a key factor.

Over the last two years, an increasing awareness of sustainability in society has changed the diet of 36% of the respondents. Products from sustainable production are ranked fourth among the most frequently purchased products and are regularly bought by 50% of consumers.

Apps influencing diet

According to the information sources consulted, apps have jumped from 10th place in 2014 to 5th in 2019. The perceived influence of apps on their own eating habits varies with age: among under 30-year-olds, 15% of consumers claim to have been influenced by apps in the past two years, while only 7% of over 30-year-olds were. 15% of respondents have already ordered food online and have had it delivered to their home – among 31- to 40-year-olds it was over 20%. A further 39% can imagine themselves using this offer in the future. Other forms of online food ordering – such as collecting at the branch or subscription cooking boxes – come into question for 26% or 18% respectively of consumers.

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