A lot of cars in a six lane street

Author: Klara Lynch, Insight & Planning Specialist UK, Bord Bia – The Irish Food Board

Covid-19 is a global crisis that has impacted many lives and is dominating news stories everywhere. Worldwide, it is not only impacting government decisions and their actions but is also significantly impacting most consumers and businesses. Consumers’ behaviour is something that Bord Bia’s Thinking House has always focused on, and something we continue to look at in this new context. Most recently, Bord Bia has published a series of Indicators designed and written to interpret behavioural changes that are unfolding at this time.

Bord Bia’s Consumer Lifestyle Trends is another example of the consumer-centric work published by the Thinking House, last updated in late 2018 and still as relevant today as ever. The Consumer Lifestyle Trends study identifies key trends that will influence the food and drink market in the next three to five years (Bord Bia, 2018a). Responsible Living is one of these five trends, and it focuses on the idea that consumers want to have a positive impact on their environment and society, while also living in a sustainable manner (Bord Bia, 2018b). A key driver for this trend is mass Urbanisation, which estimates that by 2050 two-thirds of the world’s population will live in cities, compared with just over half in 2018 (Bord Bia, 2018a).

Air pollution goes hand-in-hand with urbanisation, with increasing levels being seen in recent years. Although food production may contribute to this, it must be highlighted that many countries around the world have experienced decreased levels of air pollution since the lockdown began. All of these reductions have occurred at a time when farming and the food industry have continued at pace.

According to the BBC, the UK has experienced decreased levels of nitrogen dioxide across many cities since lockdown orders were announced, with this pollutant coming from the likes of car exhausts and the burning of fossil fuels (BBC, 2020). Similarly, Ireland has also seen decreased levels of air pollution in recent times – with the Irish Times reporting that some areas of the country have seen up to a 50% reduction (Irish Times, 2020). These stories are considered to be somewhat ‘good news’ in relation to the darker stories that are currently circulating, and with many consumers now paying closer attention to these ‘brighter’ stories, there is every chance that they will pay more attention than ever to this issue.

But what does this mean for food and drink suppliers?

Although the food and drinks industry continues to improve sustainability practices, more can be done. For example, suppliers can continue to review their practices and see if they can match consumers’ demands in the area of sustainability – whether that be through the use of greener, cleaner energy sources, or else to call out the ethical and sustainable credentials that they already have in place. Both of these are likely to encourage consumer interaction and increase positive associations with suppliers’ products.

Suppliers should also consider whether they could move into the functional food space, which is forecast to be worth over €250 billion by 2023 (Euromonitor, 2018). Consumers were already interested in the idea of foods and beverages with functional properties, enabling them to combat different health and wellness issues. This has been heightened even further since the start of the current pandemic, with many consumers looking for ways to boost their immunity and health systems. The functional food space is discussed in depth within Bord Bia’s Future of Functional Food & Beverages Playbook. In regards to urbanisation, although some negative impacts of urban living and working have been reduced, such as pollution levels, they are likely to return to some degree once restrictions are eased. As such, consumers will likely want to combat any of these effects through different means, including through their food and drink consumption. To address such a change, suppliers can use the Detoxify Platform within Bord Bia’s Future of Functional Food & Beverages Playbook as a starting point and basis for different innovation ideas, as this deals directly with the possible ill effects of city living.

Overall, Irish suppliers need to keep the Responsible Living trend in mind, as although it may not be on everyone’s radar right now, it is not a trend that appears to be going away.

To read more about Bord Bia’s Indicators’ work, click here.

To read more about Bord Bia’s Consumer Lifestyle Trends, click here.

To access Bord Bia’s Future of Functional Food & Beverages Playbook, click here.


BBC. (2020). Coronavirus lockdown sees air pollution plummet across the UK. Accessed May 7, 2020, from: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-52202974

Bord Bia. (2018a). Consumer Lifestyle Trends. Accessed May 7, 2020, from: https://www.bordbiaconsumerlifestyletrends.ie/

Bord Bia. (2018b). Consumer Lifestyle Trends: Responsible Living. Accessed May 7, 2020, from: https://www.bordbiaconsumerlifestyletrends.ie/trends/responsible-living/

Bord Bia. (2019). The Future of Functional Food & Beverages Playbook. Accessed May 7, 2020, from: https://www.bordbia.ie/globalassets/bordbia2020/industry/insights/consumer-insights/functional-food-and-beverage-innovation-playbook-june-2019.pdf

Euromonitor, 2018. Functional Market Forecast.

Irish Times. (2020). Air pollution falls dramatically in parts of Ireland following travel restrictions. Accessed May 7, 2020, from: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/air-pollution-falls-dramatically-in-parts-of-ireland-following-travel-restrictions-1.4225401