Choosing sustainably – the economics of food consumption

Senast ändrad: 22 februari 2024

Anna Kristina Edenbrandt.

Food production systems and consumption patterns today are, in many respects, not sustainable. Global challenges include addressing negative impacts on biological diversity, reducing the negative impact on climate, improving animal welfare practices, and ensuring food safety. Additionally, there is a pressing need to address rising demand while tackling public health issues associated with dietary patterns.

Changes in behaviour among consumers and actors in the food sector, from farmers to food retailers, are integral to targeting many of these challenges. Economic research addressing these global challenges related to food consumption tries to understand consumer behaviour and predict the effects of different interventions to achieve changes towards improved sustainability. Insight into this provides a basis for forming policy instruments but can also inform stakeholders in the food sector regarding changes towards a more sustainable food system and contribute to assisting consumers in making more sustainable decisions.

My research mainly focuses on consumer behaviour in addressing sustainability challenges confronting our society. Building upon my past and ongoing research, my vision for future research encompasses three primary areas that align with the sustainability challenges and individual decision-making:

  1. I have investigated the consequences of demand-side policy instruments for shifting food consumption in a more sustainable direction, particularly related to the role of informed choices. The potential interplay between different policy instruments has received little attention in the academic literature. I argue that recognizing such interaction effects between diverse policy instruments is important for informed and effective policymaking.
  2. Successfully predicting how consumers will respond to new policies, innovations, or technologies depends on an understanding of the underlying reasons for their decision-making. Continuous collaborations with experts in different disciplines, including environmental psychology, medicine, nutrition, and food technology, have expanded my knowledge in the area of individuals’ decision-making. I propose that interdisciplinary collaborations can increase the quality and relevance of the work in investigating consumer behaviour.
  3. With new challenges and needs for changes in dietary patterns comes a need to refine our experimental methods and statistical models to better understand and predict consumer behaviour. In collaboration with experts in visual attention, I have worked on refining discrete choice models where stated preference data was enriched with eye-tracking data to enhance accuracy. Another exciting research avenue is to explore methods to improve accuracy in predicting consumer acceptance of innovations and technologies.