The Food Tracker survey is a survey of UK citizens that gathers evidence on food waste attitudes, knowledge, and behaviour. It is the largest and longest-running series of its kind, having been undertaken by WRAP since 20071. It is designed to inform WRAP’s activities but also to assess any changes in attitudes and behaviours over time. 

Conducted by Icaro between November 9th and 20th, 2023, the survey comprises 509 interviews with Northern Ireland (NI) adults responsible for food shopping and preparation at home. 

Overall picture of the findings: Key food trends

The survey highlights encouraging trends in the management of food waste among NI citizens, however, this is not reflecting in the self-reported food waste which has increased from 21.8% in November 2022 to 24.9% (compared to a decrease observed in the UK and Wales). At the same time, although food waste concerns have proved remarkably resilient against the backdrop of cost of living, food prices remain the primary concern around food.

There is persistent salience of food waste as an issue, but there is a widening gap between the recognition of food waste and the personal action taken to address it. Despite this, the end of 2023 saw positive trends across a range of food management competencies as NI citizens appear to be putting more effort into managing the food they buy, another significant finding is that 23% of NI citizens are comfortable not using up all the food they buy, indicating a potential area for targeted interventions to promote more sustainable food practices.

Key findings

  • Self-reported food waste increased to 24.9% in November 2023 from 21.8% in November 2022. 
  • Nevertheless, positive trends were observed in food management competencies in 2023, particularly in buying and food preparation. 
  • Food prices remain the number one food concern with 69% of NI citizens selecting this as the most concerning issue around food.  
  • 34% of NI citizens rank food waste among their top 5 concerns. 
  • While 92% are aware of food waste as a national issue, only 77% feel they're making more effort to reduce it. 
  • 51% of NI citizens recall seeing or hearing about wasted food. 
  • Challenges persist, including a decline in recall of information about reducing food waste (34%). 
  • Recognition of Love Food Hate Waste remains stable at 44% among NI citizens since 2022. 

Overall picture of the findings: Fresh fruit and veg

In addition to food waste trends, the survey delves into fresh fruit and veg behaviours.

81% of NI citizens buy fresh produce loose, however, desiring more loose options. Most (75%) believe supermarkets should sell more loose produce, and would buy more if available (74%). Challenges include comparing prices, concerns about quality and hygiene, and convenience factors.

Key findings

  • 81% of NI citizens buy fresh fruit and veg loose, with a desire for more options.
  • 75% believe supermarkets should sell more loose produce.
  • Challenges include difficulty comparing prices (26%), concerns about quality (28%), and convenience factors (18%).
  • Around half (46%) are motivated to buy loose produce to reduce packaging waste.
  • Buying loose correlates with lower reported waste and better food management competencies.

The focus of the survey and the specific questions have naturally changed with time and so direct comparisons over time typically only cover part of this period (e.g. between 2018-2023).

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  • Household Food Waste Tracking Survey in Northern Ireland - Autumn 2023

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