What do French think of plants in their plates?

A recent IFOP / Lesieur survey examined the place of plants in the French diet. And the least we can say is that what the French think of their diet is not the reality.

Ninety-nine percent of the respondents are plant consumers: 98% of the French report consuming fruits or vegetables, and 95% pulses such as lentils or beans. Consumption of plants is felt on the rise for 41% of the French in the last two years, with a slightly higher proportion of vegetables (52% of those surveyed claim to have increased their consumption) than fruits (49%). On the other hand, only 4% say they have reduced their consumption of plants.

This study highlights the good intentions for plant consumption: 50% declare that they will increase it in the coming years, 46% that they will maintain it and only 4% think that they will decrease it.

“Flexitarian diet”, which includes meat on an occasional basis, is the most popular diet amongst French, with 9% reporting that they follow this type of diet and 19% reporting they try to follow it (and one can wonder what is the difference between the two sub-populations). Vegetarian diet comes in second with 4% followers and 9% try, and lactose-free diet is followed by 4% of the French, and 10% trying .

Overall, the reasons for non-consumption (taste / pleasure for 39%, health for 31% and cooking for 10%) are of the same nature as those justifying consumption (67% taste / pleasure , 72% health and 48% cooking).

The main reasons for not consuming plant products are:

  • price (24%)
  • pesticide use (21%)
  • meat preference (17%)
  • storage difficulties (17%)
  • lack of enjoyment (14%).

The main reasons for consuming them are :

  • healthy diet for 52%,
  • diet diversity for 45%,
  • the fact that they can be eaten everyday for 44%
  • vitamin and mineral intake for 42% .

Plant consumers also underline sustainability concerns (more natural, good for the environment, trust, etc). The absence of suffering from animals is a motivating factor for 22% of people who have increased their consumption of plants.

This study on the perception of plants in food is to be compared with the recent CCAF survey carried out by CREDOC in 2016: the consumption of fruits and vegetables, in fact, regresses. It rose from 31% in 2010 to 25% in 2016, and the share of small consumers (less than 3.5 servings per day) increased by 8% to 54% by 2016.

The French have a hard time making their intentions a reality in their plates…


Note: this article is adapted from a first publication in the Cahiers de Nutrition et de Diététique

2 Comments Add yours

  1. The missing reasons for consuming plants seem to be pleasure, taste, fun, satiety, etc. I don’t know if plant producers or even the food industries focus on the user and think “10X” as much as they should to turn this around. In the meanwhile, consumers are torn between a tall order to eat healthy and the reality of what they actually crave, and end up lying to themselves about it to bridge the gap.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Laurent Tillette de Clermont-Tonnerre says:

    Interesting observation, I believe that the French tend to be quite traditional, especially around food (even dogmatic?:) as it is a big part of the culture, which may feed the discrepancy between what they say & do. I am sure similar behavior could be seen with other cultures, as food is often a big part of the cultural heritage, Hopefully the multitude of documentaries (on Netflix for example), articles or TED talks seen in the last few years are getting people to be more conscious about what they eat, something hard to do as it is such an habitual / cultural / social thing to do!


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