7 in 10 Hungarians see Fruit and Veg as Critical to Healthy Diet

Food

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Compared to 2022, more Hungarians are paying attention to health-conscious eating, with 60% of them including a meat-free day in their week, motivated not only by saving money but also by healthy living, according to Nestlé Hungária’s second major national “Veganuary” survey.

Nestlé Hungária surveyed the attitudes of the Hungarian population towards healthy eating and meat consumption at the end of 2023, repeating a representative survey in 2022 on the same topic. Among other things, the research sought to find out how well-known the “Veganuary” (an initiative aimed at reducing meat consumption) is in Hungary. It also examined how the population’s willingness to give up or reduce animal-based foods has changed over the course of a year.

In 2022, approximately 52% of respondents said they would give up at least one type of animal food or meat product. This had risen to 58% at the end of 2023, with processed meat products and red meat particularly high on the list of things consumers are willing to give up. The proportion of those who believe reducing or eliminating red meat consumption could be the key to a healthy diet rose from 23% to 28% among those who place more emphasis on a balanced diet.

Overall, compared to the previous year, the number of people paying attention to a healthy diet has increased. Fruit and vegetable consumption is still considered the most crucial aspect of this, with the proportion rising from 64% to 68%.

This is followed by avoiding or reducing sugar and avoiding preservatives and colorings, which are given even more weight than in previous results. A similar trend can be seen in the perception of fiber-rich foods. Already considered a cornerstone of a healthy diet in 2022 (47%), 6% more people thought the same at the end of 2023.

Healthy Eating and Cost Saving

In theory, awareness of healthy eating is on the rise, with three in 10 people following some kind of diet and 10% restricting meat or animal foods, slightly higher than last year. Six out of 10 people surveyed eat meat several times a week, but not every day, and meat-free days are motivated primarily by a desire to save money. This is in line with previous results, but a significant difference is that the weight of financial considerations has decreased from 58% to 48%, while the weight of health reasons has risen from 12% to 18%.

Interestingly, 6% of respondents said they would consider giving up meat in the future, 45% would reduce their meat consumption, while one in three would like to try different plant-based alternatives to replace processed meat products.

“It is good to see that the Hungarian population is more open to reducing meat and other animal products, as it is important for our health to have a higher proportion of plant-based foods in our diet,” says Diána Sárga, a dietician at Nestlé Hungária.

“Moreover, by eating them, we can have a positive impact not only on our bodies but also on the environment,” she adds.

Nestlé notes that recent studies have shown that replacing animal products with plant-based alternatives significantly reduces the emissions, land use and water consumption associated with those products.

Environmental Footprint

Unsurprisingly, given it commissioned the survey, Nestlé S.A. has some skin in this game, specifically its Garden Gourmet brand, which, the Swiss multi-national says, is committed to reducing its environmental footprint in the production of its vegetarian and vegan products in several ways, including the widespread use of soil restoration practices with its farmers and suppliers. This means supporting farmers who supply soy protein, for example, by encouraging them to plant cover crops, use organic fertilizer and practice conservation tillage to improve soil health, among other things.

“Research also shows that there is a high proportion of people who would like to reduce their consumption of animal products but not completely abandon them, and we also see that the proportion of people who have heard of plant-based products has gone from 85% to 90% by 2022,” Sárga explains.

“For them, Garden Gourmet offers a tasty alternative that contributes to their daily protein and fiber intake, in addition to a balanced diet. With these delicacies, we offer plant-based products that can help those who have not yet done so to include a meat-free day or two in their diet, even as part of a vegan January,” she concludes.

Nestlé’s survey showed that a quarter of the population has heard of the “Veganuary” initiative and that, even if only to a small extent, the percentage of people open to trying it is increasing year-on-year.

About Veganuary

According to its website, Veganuary is a non-profit organization that “encourages people worldwide to try vegan for January and beyond.” It claims that “millions of people” have signed up for its one-month vegan pledge since its launch in 2014. It is registered as a charity in England and Wales. “Our mission is to inspire and support people to try vegan, drive corporate change, and create a global mass movement championing compassionate food choices with the aim of ending animal farming, protecting the planet, and improving human health,” the organization says. For more information, see veganuary.com.

This article was first published in the Budapest Business Journal print issue of January 12, 2024.

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