Healthy options first for Irish consumers, says Bord Bia survey

New research from Bord Bia reveals that healthy eating continues to be a key focus for consumers in Ireland.
Healthy options first for Irish consumers, says Bord Bia survey

The findings show that Ireland ranks third out of eight countries in understanding the potential power of a healthy diet.

Bord Bia’s biennial PERIscope study has been exploring consumer attitudes towards topics such as eating at home, cooking, local food, sustainability and health and wellbeing since 2001. It highlights Irish consumers’ changing behaviours and attitudes towards food, grocery shopping and cooking.

This year it looked at eight markets - Ireland and Britain, four in Continental Europe (Spain, France, Germany and the Netherlands), along with the United States, and for the first time, China. The research involved more than 8,000 respondents across all these markets and came up with some interesting changes in consumer attitudes to food.

Consumer insight manager with Bord Bia, Paula Donoghue said knowledge and consumer understanding in the countries where the study was conducted is key for Irish food and drink exporters seeking to grow their global footprint.

“Insight such as this assists companies to innovate, be future-focused and consumer driven in anticipating their changing needs. The real advantage of PERIscope is that we can track how attitudes have changed over the years,” she said.

Almost nine out of 10 (87%) of Irish consumers regard their diet as fairly or very healthy and this figure is the highest for all eight countries surveyed.

Increasing slightly from 2013, some 73% of Irish say they eat healthy to take control of their lives, while 79% of Irish people consider what they eat to be really important for their mental wellbeing.

Interestingly, 7% of Irish people now have a nutribullet (nutrient extractor), 37% have a juicer and 31% have a smoothie maker.

In the same vein, 49% of people have a steamer, up from 34% in 2003. Significantly, deep fat fryers have dropped in ownership from 65% in 2003 to 42% twelve years later.

Some 41% of Irish people claim to be following a balanced diet with 4% following a high protein one at the moment.

Children’s health and the issue of childhood obesity is a growing issue for the majority of parents, with those in Spain, China and Ireland (52%, up from 31% in 2013) demonstrating the most concern.

Sandwiches, fruit and bottled water are the most popular items in lunchboxes. Juice has seen the biggest decline from 60% inclusion in 2009 to 34% six years later. Over half the population in each of the countries check for nutritional information on food, while a significant proportion claim to need help understanding it.

The Irish are the least likely to check nutritional labelling at 55% versus China at 94%. In Ireland, 10% of households claim to have someone who has a food allergy which is up from 7% in 2011.

Transparency when it comes to food remains important. The vast majority of all countries are confident that the food in the supermarket is safe.

Meanwhile, 74% of Irish people sometimes or always check for country of origin on labelling or a quality mark symbol.

Some 60% of the Irish said they look at price first when shopping with 77% of them saying quality of fresh food is more important.

Food produced locally is of particular importance in France, Spain and Ireland respectively while those in the Netherlands continue to remain disengaged from the concept of local food.

Ireland is ranked third (68%) out of the eight countries for believing in the importance of buying local food to be important.

The Chinese are among the most frequent users of convenience meals, ready prepared foods and online shopping.

According to PERIscope, 38% of Irish people claim to be too busy to cook as often as they like while only 13% of them have ever ordered grocery shopping online versus 71% of Chinese consumers.

Some 66% of Irish people agree they are looking for quicker meals to prepare, up from 56% back in 2001.

The French get more enjoyment and entertainment through cooking and food than any other country.

Consumers in Ireland appear to be eating out and socialising more often, but they are less adventurous in the foods they eat and the level of cooking expertise is among the lowest across all the countries.

The Dutch claim to cook more from scratch (81% ) while the British do it the least at 64%, with Ireland only slightly ahead at 68%.

Germans are still having the most fun cooking at 70% versus 36% of Irish who they find it good fun or a passion.

However, Irish people continue to see the importance of eating as a family, using typical mealtimes to come together. Some 85% of respondents still believe it’s important to spend time over dinner as a family.

The Irish are also eating together more at the weekends but less so on weekdays - on Sundays, 88% eat together up from 78% in 2001, while on weekdays, 54% eat together, a drop from 59% in 2001.

Irish people are also making more time for breakfast. The number who say they rarely have time for breakfast is down from 44% in 2001 to 35%.

Across most countries, the awareness of environmental issues such as carbon footprint and sustainably produced food continues to be high.

The report found that 57% of Irish people believe they are more conscious of environmental issues in their choice of products, while 79% are aware of both ‘food waste’ and ‘animal welfare’, terms included in the study for the first time this year.

Over half (54%) of Irish consumers say they prefer to buy from companies that are aware of the impact of environmental issues.

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