How can we make plant-based food more sustainable and ethical?


Plant-based food is driving a significant new food transition around the world. But if supply and consumption are indeed increasing, how can this habit be established in a sustainable and ethical way? The work of Professor Armando Cueto (University of Copenhagen) is based on nudging, an effective marketing technique that also encourages healthier consumption. A sneak preview of his results…

Changing current food patterns

A more sustainable world requires radical and rapid changes to our food systems. The limits to our planet’s resources dictate the need for healthy and sustainable food, mainly of plant origin, with as little processing as possible. Consumer behaviour has also changed accordingly: a spontaneous reduction in meat consumption is taking place in favour of plant-based food. There are multiple reasons for these changes, ranging from health (which only comes in third) to sustainable and ethical issues (e.g. animal rights).

What about the food industry? Faced with an enormous challenge, its responses vary from those who are prepared and have already anticipated the effects of this food transition by reviewing their production in a more societal perspective, and those are not. In any case, the plant-based alternative is growing immensely, and the first generation of plant-based foods is becoming the norm. Paradoxically, greater consumption of plant-based food has not yet made its way to the plate.

This lecture will present the lessons of  the European research project VeggiEAT, focused on the study of the acceptance of vegetables among adolescents and the elderly, and in particular, the results of nudging techniques. It appears that it is quite possible to bring about significant and long-term changes in the consumption of plant-based food, with small everyday changes. This suggests that nudging is not only effective in increasing the consumption of healthy food, but that this choice can last over time.

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About d’Armando Perez-Cueto

Armando Cueto is associate professor in the Department of Food Science at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. He has a multidisciplinary background covering the fields of consumer behaviour, nutrition and food science. He has received numerous awards for his scientific work, including Honorary Professor (Universidad Privada del Valle, Bolivia).

He is President of the International Conference on Culinary Arts and Sciences. As the author of research on consumer choices and behaviours, he has extensive experience in linking nutritional status and food choices, as well as in assessing the determinants of consumer acceptance. He is currently studying how consumers evolve in their relationship with innovative plant-based foods and ingredients.