Consumer choices and climate adaptation for the food value chain

Climate change will continue to influence the quality, quantity and availability of food produced in Australia and globally. Understanding how it will impact the value chain — from inputs to consumers — could assist Australian businesses to make decisions to address these impacts.

The Challenge

Climate impacts to the whole food value chain

Climate change is significantly impacting the entire value chain of the agrifood sector and is predicted to continue to influence the quality, quality and availability of food produced both in Australia and globally.   

The impact is likely to be felt across a range of activities along the supply chain, including the availability and security of raw materials, the length of growing seasons, harvest patterns and the costs of transportation and manufacturing. 

Consumers will be largely affected by climate change due to changes to the amount of and quality of the products presented.

Our Response

Investigating attitudes and purchasing decisions of consumers

Our scientists are currently investigating how climate change impacts the attitudes and purchasing decisions of consumers, and are determining how this information is able to be used to develop and frame appropriate adaptation initiatives by appealing to what Australian consumers find important.

We recently conducted a study funded by the Australian Government in close collaboration with the University of Queensland and the University of Tasmania, to further understand current Australian attitudes and behaviours related to climate change and to determine how consumer perceptions of climate adaptation potentially influence consumption and purchase of food products.

This study comprises part of a broader research program investigating the value of a whole-of-systems approach to climate change adaptation in the Australian food sector.

Through a participatory research approach, the research program aims to address how value chains are impacted by climate change and climate variability, how they can effectively respond through adaptation and mitigation strategies and what are the impacts of such responses to value creation and competitive advantages in value chains.

The Results

Understanding consumer choices in relation to climate adaptation

The key findings from the study have recently been published in the report entitled, Climate adaptation: what it means for Australian consumers [CSIRO Research Publications Repository], collating the online survey results of 1,532 Australians. 

The survey was administered to a cross-section of Australians from metropolitan and regional areas, specifically targeting consumers who purchase a range of food products.

Initial results indicated that climate adaptation is a concept that is not well understood by consumers and any adaptation initiatives will best framed in the context of what Australian consumers find important, namely, managing the cost of living, health, economic stability and maintaining their way of life. 

These social issues are impacted by climate change to varying degrees, and as such, it may be possible for consumers to value adapted food products if they more fully understand and appreciate how climate adaptation addresses their broader societal concerns.

How consumers can adapt

Consumers can adapt to climate change and take action through their power of choice, however, these choices may not solely be made on the basis of climate change. The study established that consumers are more likely to adapt if there is an added benefit such as a cost saving, rather than a deliberate act to protect the environment and mitigate climate change risk. 

How food businesses can adapt

Through an understanding of the beliefs and values of their market segments, food businesses can take steps towards creating value from adaptation. It may be beneficial for some businesses to communicate adaptation initiatives to customers to determine if the target market is receptive to such messages, however, the report hastens to add that not all adaptation initiatives will translate into customer value. 

Presently adaptation initiatives are addressing internal business risks such as rising input costs, the sustainability of growing regions and the reliability of supply.  Determining which initiatives have the potential to add value to product offerings and brand equity may be worth communicating to consumers.

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