Mintel: US consumers unwilling to pay much more for sustainable dining

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More than half (57%) of US consumers are willing to pay more for local and sustainable foodservice options but the majority are only willing to pay a mere 1-5% more, according to new research from Mintel.

Consumers want and need to eat out, and the foodservice industry has a huge carbon footprint, but getting industry operators and consumers on the “green” bandwagon is necessary to minimise the impact restaurants have on the environment in the future, said Mintel.

“Green and sustainable attributes pale in comparison to the leading restaurant decision drivers of menu selection, prices and convenient location,” said Eric Giandelone, foodservice director at Mintel. “However, these initiatives support the leading attributes to help a restaurant stand apart and will become more important as the green movement continues to progress.”

When deciding where to eat, 74% of patrons based their decision on menu selection followed by pricing and convenient location at 69% and 67%, respectively. Local/organic ingredients and sustainable ingredients lagged severely behind with only 7% of people saying that drove them to a restaurant.

Going green and using local ingredients aren’t the only issues restaurants are facing today. For corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives, patrons place the greatest importance on living wages. When Mintel respondents were asked to rate their top three CSR initiatives they named living wages, local ingredients and company-provided medical insurance.

“Employee treatment is considered a leading CSR initiative in the restaurant industry,”  said Giandelone. “Despite the fact those aged 18-24 are generally more in tune with green and sustainable initiatives, living wages rank as more important for older consumers.”

According to Mintel, the west is the greenest region in the US. The west has traditionally been a hotbed for healthier lifestyles and related culinary trends, it said. Although still a small percentage of patrons are impacted, local or organic ingredients are particularly of interest to those living in western states (11% versus 7% of the north west and only 4% of the mid west).