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Kristia, K.; Kovács, S.; Bács, Z.; Rabbi, M.F. Sustainable Food Consumption. Encyclopedia. Available online: https://encyclopedia.pub/entry/45627 (accessed on 15 April 2024).
Kristia K, Kovács S, Bács Z, Rabbi MF. Sustainable Food Consumption. Encyclopedia. Available at: https://encyclopedia.pub/entry/45627. Accessed April 15, 2024.
Kristia, Kristia, Sándor Kovács, Zoltán Bács, Mohammad Fazle Rabbi. "Sustainable Food Consumption" Encyclopedia, https://encyclopedia.pub/entry/45627 (accessed April 15, 2024).
Kristia, K., Kovács, S., Bács, Z., & Rabbi, M.F. (2023, June 15). Sustainable Food Consumption. In Encyclopedia. https://encyclopedia.pub/entry/45627
Kristia, Kristia, et al. "Sustainable Food Consumption." Encyclopedia. Web. 15 June, 2023.
Sustainable Food Consumption
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The major goal of this study is to trace the emergence of SFC-related research across time, using a thematic map and a list of corresponding publications. In addition, this study aims to determine the author who has made the most significant contribution to this particular field. This study provides a comprehensive bibliometric analysis of the historical development and current trends in sustainable food consumption research, examining 2265 articles published between 1990 and 2023. Using the bibliometrics package of R Studio software version 4.2.1 and its Biblioshiny package, articles from the Scopus and Web of Science databases are examined. In the field of sustainable food consumption, we identify five distinct research phases: initial stagnation, infant growth, post-economic crisis, expanding phase and COVID-19 and post-pandemic. While research on broader sustainability topics can be traced back to the early 20th century, a very limited number of articles on sustainable food consumption was published in the 1990s. However, the number of publications increased incrementally over time, with a notable uptick in interest around 2015, and the subject was still being discussed in 2022. The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic marked the beginning of the most recent phase of research, which analyzed the consumption patterns of consumers before and after the pandemic. Our study highlights key authors, documents and sources related to sustainable food consumption. The United States, Italy and the United Kingdom emerged as the most active contributors to the research on sustainable food consumption and were additionally the countries with the largest global market shares for organic products. Major sub-themes including organic food, food waste, sustainable development and food security, together with consumer behavior and organic products appeared as being the most researched sub-themes of recent times. The results of this study suggest that more research is related to sustainable food consumption in countries with a low organic food market share. In addition, the investigation of actual data on food waste, carbon footprints and greenhouse gas emissions resulting from food production and consumption is essential to gain holistic insights.

sustainable food consumption consumer behavior bibliometric analysis Biblioshiny

1. Introduction

The first official discussion of sustainable consumption took place at the 1994 Oslo Symposium. The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) defines sustainable consumption as the use of products or services to meet the demand of consumers and enhance quality of life while reducing the use of unrenewable resources, hazardous substances and waste generated during consumption [1][2]. From the producers’ point of view, large corporations and widely recognized brands began to market their goods and services as “environmentally friendly” [3][4]. On the other hand, it was shown that a growing number of people prefer to choose environmentally friendly products and are inclined to spend more, although these products were made mainly from recycled materials [5][6][7][8]. The application of sustainable consumption was carried out in various sectors, including the energy sector [9][10], household [11][12], electricity [13], tourism [14][15] and food sector [16][17][18][19]. Achieving sustainable food consumption (SFC) is one of the most important goals to strive for and has additionally received much attention from various parties, following the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 [20][21].
In recent years, SFC-related research has garnered the attention of academics and policymakers. The literature review or bibliometric research on the SFC topic that has been conducted thus far has centered on SFC organic food consumption [22], contemporary issues and policies [18], determinants of sustainable eating out behavior [23], determinants of sustainable food consumption among students [24], trends of research on food security [25] and edible insect consumption [26]. To the best of the authors’ knowledge, there remains a limited number of bibliometric studies that have attempted to provide general insights that encompass the wide field of SFC. In previous similar studies, a literature review with in-depth analysis characteristics and content analysis of a small number of research articles was employed [18][22][23][24][25][26]. This leads the authors to believe that it is crucial to chart the evolution of the SFC topic, especially through bibliometric research.

2. Sustainable Food Consumption

Sustainable food consumption is the process of meeting consumer needs related to food, starting from acquiring, using and disposing of products while minimizing the negative environmental impacts that can arise from the consumption process [27][28]. Sustainable consumption behavior is often known as ecological behavior [29][30], environmentally friendly [31], green consumption [32][33][34][35], responsible consumption [36][37], conscious behavior [38][39] and mindful consumption behavior [40][41][42]. Vegetarian and vegan lifestyles are additionally commonly associated with sustainable food consumption, as plant-based diets are suggested instead of meat consumption to mitigate climate change-related issues [43][44]. However, many consumers find it difficult to abstain from eating meat altogether; consequently, a new group known as “flexitarians” has emerged who consume less meat [45][46]. The customer segment that engages in sustainable food consumption practices is concerned with the consumption process, the food production process, the use of eco-friendly raw materials and the disposal process following consumption [47]. Choosing products with a fair-trade label or certification is one way to ensure that the social aspects of the food production process are conducted ethically, and thus social sustainability is achieved [28][48]. A brand that has been certified as fair-trade has met the standards of not discriminating against the genders, races or religions of its employees, not employing children and paying suppliers and other business stakeholders decently, as well as having prices that are typically higher than the average market price [48][49].
Sustainable food consumption has multiple implications, including the consumption of organic food [50][51][52][53][54][55][56][57][58], the reduction of meat consumption and the choice of a plant-based diet [5][59][60], the purchase of locally grown and seasonal food [19] and the disposal aspects of food consumption [61][62]. Although some parts of society in some developed countries already had a positive attitude towards sustainable consumption, this study area remained a less studied segment, especially in developing countries [2][28]. This is mainly because organic food products and those produced in an environmentally friendly manner are usually sold at a premium price. The high price of organic food is certainly not just a pricing strategy to display a premium, exclusive image and provide a sense of security for consumers. However, the production costs of organic products are much higher than the agriculture of regular vegetables and fruits. Organic food producers must ensure that the entire value chain involved in the production process is safe for the environment and consumer health by avoiding harmful chemicals, synthetic hormones, radiation and genetic engineering [63][64].
Due to the high prices, the relatively unappealing appearance of organic products, the fact that organic products spoil faster than chemically produced foods and their limited availability in the market, some consumers are less interested in buying organic food [45][46][47][48]. This phenomenon is worsened by current high global inflation and skyrocketing food and energy prices that reduce consumer purchasing power substantially. As a result, not many people can easily alter their behavior to become more responsible. Consumers, who are willing to consistently perform SFC and pay more attention to other ethical aspects of their lives, are typically well-educated, knowledgeable and have a higher amount of disposable income [49][50][51][52]. Decisions on daily food consumption are often made, especially by people who are young and do not have health problems. Low-involvement decision-making is heavily influenced by emotional appeal, convenience, taste, buying ability, hedonism motivation and habit, which is difficult to change [28][53].

3. Historical Development of Sustainable Food Consumption

The field of SFC has developed substantially over time, resulting in a vast and diverse body of literature. The emergence of SFC as a research theme can be traced back to the latter half of the 20th century, which predominantly focused on exploring the concept’s infancy [54]. During this phase, SFC was acknowledged as a crucial factor in environmental sustainability [55], in spite of the relatively limited research. As environmental issues gained more attention, so did the interest in SFC. Following the adoption of the UN Sustainable Development Goals in 2015, there was a significant increase in this interest [56][57]. In the subsequent years, the focus shifted from merely comprehending SFC to investigating methods for promoting sustainable consumption practices. The examination of the interaction between various SFC domains, such as food waste [58], organic foods [59] and sustainable development [60], has additionally been emphasized. Recent research has investigated the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on sustainable food consumption [61][62].

4. Bibliometric Studies of Sustainable Food Consumption

Some literature has discussed sustainable consumption using bibliometric methods; however, more literature is needed to employ bibliometrics to discuss the food aspects especially. One study used bibliometric and network analysis techniques to monitor the evolution of sustainable consumption research from 1995 to 2014, identifying key authors and co-authorship networks and emphasizing the topics studied [2]. By analyzing publications from 1974 to 2019, bibliometric studies of sustainable consumption in general have been conducted to identify trends in publications, prominent journals, productive countries and psychosocial factor-related keywords [63]. In addition, a study employing a systematic review methodology identifies the significant facets, theories, methodologies, predictors, outcomes and mediators/moderators of sustainable consumption using a publication period of only 10 years, from 2000 to 2020 [64]. A literature review that discusses food as a part of sustainable consumption has been conducted to answer specific aspects, such as segments and consumer behavior regarding SFC consumers [65].

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