The demand for sustainable products is increasing; the offer is also increasing


The demand for products with a sustainability label is increasing, as is the supply of such products. Consumers spent a total of 8.2 billion euros on products that respect animals, people and the environment in 2020, an increase of 7% compared to 2019. The share of sustainable products in spending total food increased by 2% that year. These figures were published in the Sustainable Food Monitor of Wageningen University & Research. The Observatory is mandated by the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality.

Despite the corona crisis, demand and supply of sustainable food products increased in 2020. Spending on sustainable food increased by 7% in just one year, while total spending on food in countries -Lows fell 9%, due to the partial closure of restaurants and other food services. Spending on sustainable food in restaurants fell sharply by 46%, but supermarkets were able to compensate for this drop: spending on sustainable food increased by 21% in this sector. Stores specializing in sustainable food recorded a 9% increase in turnover.

Sustainable foods are defined in the Monitor as foods with a lower impact on the environment, animal welfare and / or social aspects during production and processing than what is required by law.

Quality labels

Consumers can recognize sustainable products with a quality label. The “Beter Leven” (Better Life) quality label is the best-selling product, with a turnover of around 3.0 billion euros. Then come the quality labels ‘Biologisch’ (Organic – 1.6 billion euros) and ‘UTZ Certified’ (approximately 1.4 billion euros).

The largest percentage increase was observed in products bearing the “On the Way to PlanetProof” and “Rainforest Alliance” labels (over 41%). This is linked to the introduction of more of these labels in the product line. ASC, the label for responsible fish farming, has increased by 22% compared to 2019.

Product groups

In 2020, almost all product groups with a sustainability label showed net growth. Meat and meat products (€ 2,141 million, growth of 3% compared to 2019), Long-life products, ready meals and others (€ 1,222 million, growth of 17%) and Dairy products (€ 1,095 million, plus 11%) were the product groups. with the largest share of consumer spending on sustainable food in 2020.

Total spending on sustainable coffee and tea fell 19%. This decrease was caused by restrictions in the restaurant industry due to COVID-19. The growth of the Coffee and Tea product group in the other channels studied could not compensate for the loss in foodservice sales, although the product group still had the strongest growth in supermarket sales: over 34%.

Over the period 2019-2020, the product groups Long-life, Ready meals and others (234 million euros) and Dairy products (218 million euros) recorded the largest absolute increase. In supermarkets, potatoes, sustainable fruits and vegetables, bread, cereals, cakes and pastries, eggs and dairy products showed growth of around 30%. For the Eggs group, this was an extension of the range of 1-star free-range eggs labeled “Beter Leven”.

With a drop of 1%, expenditure on organic food (with the ‘Biologisch’ label) remained more or less unchanged. Organic fish in particular sold less, with a drop of 34%. Supermarkets and sustainable food stores both sold 9% more organic food, but there was a 48% drop in the food service industry.

Monitor online

The Sustainable Food Monitor is published annually by Wageningen University and Research and commissioned by the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality. The monitor provides an overview of Dutch consumers’ spending on more sustainably produced food in supermarkets, the catering industry and specialist sustainable food stores. The Sustainable Food Monitor 2020 is available to the public on www.agrimatie.nl.


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