4 Dec 2017

ITALIANS ARE FOOD TRADITIONALISTS: 3 IN 4 ARE NOT READY TO CHANGE THEIR EATING HABITS AND 50% HAVE NEVER TRIED FOREIGN FOOD, BUT YOUNG PEOPLE ARE MORE OPEN

• Italians appear to be traditionalists when it comes to food: 3 in 4 do not feel ready to change their eating habits and prefer to eat Italian food, while 50% never go to foreign restaurants or buy and cook foreign foods

• However, 1 Italian in 2 thinks that their eating habits will change significantly over the next 10 years, mainly due to climate change (79.2%), but also because of the prices of ingredients (78.2%) and the impact of social media (70.4%)

• Nevertheless, this change will not bring about an increase in foreign food (only 47.4% think so) or in the consumption of insects (25%). Increases are, however expected to come thanks to organic food (68.8%), functional food (63.2%), and “zero-mile” food (59.7%).

• These are just some of the results of the survey carried out by Demos and the Barilla Foundation presented at BCFN’s 8thInternational Forum on Food and Nutrition 




To what extent has foreign food become part of our normal eating habits in western countries? In Germany, France, Italy and Spain , with a food market worth €321 billion, the amount of foreign food  for domestic use stands at around €3 billion. This result is probably due in part to migration flows, which are also influencing our eating habits, as well as chefs, food producers and local consumers who are constantly on the lookout for new flavours. But are Italians ready to broaden their culinary horizons? In collaboration with the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition Foundation, Demos carried out a study , presented at the BCFN’s 8th International Forum on Food and Nutrition, to understand how local eating habits are changing. 

Indeed, 1 Italian in 2 thinks that over the next 10 years, very or extremely significant changes in eating habits will occur

This perception of change is especially prevalent among the over-65s (61.4% of the age group surveyed) and among women (60.5%), two groups whose combined weight had a significant impact on the results. On the other hand, young people (15-24 years) are the least likely to expect such a change in the future (38.5% of those questioned in this age group). The reasons for this perception gap between older and younger generations can be easily explained: since young people have been exposed to food of other cultures all their lives and are the people who are most likely to experience this change, they are less likely to perceive it, while those over 65 – who may well have witnessed something similar in the past – may have a clearer perspective of new developments in eating habits. A closer look at the data backs up this theory, showing that young people are the most open to foreign food and eat it more than any other age group (3 out of 4 say they go to foreign restaurants).

So, which factors will have the greatest influence? According to the Italians surveyed, the variables which will have the most significant influence on food choices in the next 10 years are “climate change” (mentioned by 79.6% of the sample), followed by “the prices of ingredients” (78.2%) and “social media” (70.4%). In this hypothetical ranking, the factor of “migration and contact with new cultures” comes in last place, mentioned by “only” 65.6% of those questioned. 


It is also interesting to note how these changes will affect our eating habits over the next 10 years, and what form these changes are expected to take. 69.8% believe there will be an increase in organic food, while 63.2% expect a rise in functional food (i.e. gluten-free, lactose-free, etc.) and 59.7% predict an increase in “zero-mile” food. A growth in foreign food is only anticipated by 47.4%, lagging far behind many of the other categories (although it did rank higher than what many people deem to be the “foods of the future”, such as “exotic foods, like insects”, which only scored 25.2%). These results suggest that Italians’ eating habits are deeply entrenched. Unsurprisingly, it is students who are most likely to expect an increase in foreign foods – the same group which didn’t perceive a significant change in eating habits. 


But the Demos-BCFN survey also confirms that Italians are loyal to their national food. Indeed, the shared view among those questioned seems to be a preference for local food, especially from 34-year-olds onwards. Around 3 out of every 4 people surveyed confirmed that “they feel comfortable eating Italian food”, “they only feel at ease when eating Italian food” or “they only eat Italian food”. It is therefore unsurprising that around 50% of those questioned never go to foreign restaurants, don’t buy foreign take-away food or cook it at home. And yet, it is also interesting to note that many of these views are dictated by a lack of knowledge of other cuisines (3 out of every 4 Italians “don’t look for new and different food” and only 34.9% of those questioned say that they “appreciate foods of different cultures”). Consequently, it is to be expected that when asked to name their favourite foreign food, around the same number (41.8% and 41.2%) of those questioned naturally cite Chinese and Japanese food, which are the foreign cuisines that have been present in Italy for the longest and are the most widespread throughout the country. To sum up, Italians are open to changes in their eating habits, but… with moderation.

 1 MacroGeo and Barilla Foundation study, “Food & Migration. Understanding the geopolitical nexus in the Euro-Mediterranean”, pag. 83

  CBI 2017 and MacroGeo elaboration on Ibis world and Nielsen mass market data.  

  3The survey was carried out by Demos & Pi and the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition Foundation. The survey was conducted by Demetra with the MIXED MODE method (Cati - Cami - Cawi) between 7-9 November 2017. The sample was made up of over 1,300 people representative of the Italian population, with all respondents 15 years old and over, balanced by gender, age, education and area, and weighted on the basis of socio-demographic variables 



For further information BCFN Press Office c/o INC – Istituto Nazionale per la Comunicazione

Simone Silvi s.silvi@inc-comunicazione.it 335 1097279 – 06. 44160881
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The Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition Foundation (BCFN Foundation) is a multi-disciplinary research centre which analyses the causes of economic, scientific, social and environmental factors and the effects they have on the food system. It produces scientific content which can be used to inform and help people to make responsible choices regarding food, nutrition, health and sustainability. The Advisory Board oversees the work of the BCFN Foundation. For more information: www.barillacfn.com

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