Almost 40% of Cork consumers under 35 have increased their dairy (milk, cheese and yoghurt) consumption since the beginning of the Covid-19 lockdown, as families and households have sought nutritional value, local natural produce and assurance of quality during uncertain times.
While 91% of Irish consumers still think we can prevent all or most of the catastrophic consequences of climate change, when it comes to making food purchasing decisions, price [46%], nutritional value [34%] and healthiness [31%] trump carbon footprint [10%] and sustainable packaging [19%] concerns.
These are some of the key findings of new consumer research of over 2,000 Irish adults released this week by the European Milk Forum, as part of its ‘Sustainable Dairy in Europe’ campaign to gain a better understanding of consumers’ perceptions of sustainability, climate change and the challenges they pose in relation to the dairy sector.
Zoe Kavanagh, Chief Executive of the National Dairy Council and spokesperson for the European Milk Forum in Ireland, said the research demonstrated that Irish consumers value dairy products as well as our indigenous dairy industry.
“In these unprecedented times, it is heartening to know consumers are seeking out dairy products because they know they can rely on their natural nutritional value and they can be assured of the quality of locally produced Irish dairy.
“Our research shows that almost four in ten [39%] consumers under 35 have increased their consumption of milk, cheese and yoghurt during the Covid-19 pandemic,” says Ms Kavanagh.
“On top of this, almost all consumers [88%] say that Irish dairy produce is superior to other countries produce and [82%] want the Irish dairy sector to be successful and supported into the future.
“The survey also tells us that an overwhelming majority [96%] believe in climate change, believe that we can prevent all or the most serious consequences of climate change [91%], and that the responsibility to create this more sustainable future needs a collaborative effort which should be shared principally between the production industry [57%], consumers [49%] and politicians [49%].
“But with only two in of five consumers [42%] feeling well-informed about sustainability, it is clear there is a lot of work to be done by stakeholders right across Government, civil society and industry,” states Ms Kavanagh.
Ms Kavanagh says Irish dairy farmers and producers are committed to playing their part in a national effort to address climate change, by creating a more sustainable industry and protecting rural biodiversity and a lot of investment and progress has been made to-date.
“Ireland already has the most efficient production system in the European Union with low levels of carbon emissions, due to our grass-based and family farming systems. We know, however, that there is much work still to be done, with the majority of consumers [79%] saying that we need to change the way we consume and produce all of our food.
“This is important and compels the sector to deepen their sustainable practices. Across the country, farmers are reducing emissions from soil management, incorporating clover into their grass management – to act as a natural fertiliser – and utilising lime to increase soil PH.
“Farmers are doing a lot on-farms in terms of reducing their energy usage too. Sustainability experts are working with farmers to improve water quality, looking at preventing surface run-off, safe water management and control of nutrient loss.
“Almost every dairy farmer in Ireland has been certified under the Sustainable Dairy Assurance Scheme in Ireland (Origin Green) for taking important steps towards improving sustainability.
“Looking to the future, recognising the carbon capture potential of our grasslands and hedgerows, and differentiating between biogenic methane and carbon dioxide are key issues that could provide significant climate and industry benefits,” Ms Kavanagh concludes.
Other highlights from the research include:
- 9 in 10 [96%] agree that climate change is already occurring or will occur in the near future
- 7 in 10 [70%] are worried about climate change
- Production industry [57%], consumers [49%] and politicians [49%] share responsibility for creating a more sustainable future
- Nearly all [88%] of consumers believe that Irish dairy is superior to dairy produced elsewhere in the world
- Country of origin is an important factor for 9 in 10 [92%] of consumers buying dairy products
- 8 in 10 [82%] want the dairy industry to be protected and supported for future generations.