75% of diners want carbon labels on menus

Three in four adults would prefer to eat in a restaurant that displays carbon footprint details on its menus, helping them make more informed decisions about what they eat.

“No longer is allergy and nutritional information enough on menus – consumers are hungry to learn more about sustainable eating,” said James Bagshaw, co-founder at carbon consultancy E.Mission, which carried out the research.

The finding follows a YouGov survey published in April showing that consumers were broadly supportive of carbon labels on products. That poll, commissioned by the Carbon Trust, also found that 66% of consumers said they would feel “more positive” about companies that can demonstrate they are making efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of their products.

There is little doubt that consumers are eager to reduce their carbon footprint, so an indication of a product or meal’s emissions could go down well.

As Footprint reported recently, carbon labels were tested by some food brands a few years ago, but uptake was so low that it made comparisons impossible. Making them mandatory is one possibility, but it’s a very unlikely one given the cost implications (cost, reportedly, is also holding up a decision on calorie labelling rules for menus).

In a foodservice setting the carbon labels might work without the whole industry buying into it. For example, companies that analysed their different dishes and printed the corresponding footprints on their menus could help diners select low impact options. But what happens if the dishes with fewer greenhouse gases also happen to be the unhealthy ones?

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