New research shows that consumers' expectations around sustainability are rapidly evolving with a growing number demanding increased sustainability benefits from their food and beverage products.

The survey from global taste and nutrition company Kerry Group also reveals that 49% of consumers are now considering sustainability when buying food and drink.

Their understanding of the issue is evolving from environmental and social responsibility to including sustainable wellbeing and sustainable nutrition, Kerry said.

This means that typical associations with sustainability such as sustainable packaging and environmental preservation are now considered to be standard for many consumers, it added.

"Consumers, particularly those in more sustainability-mature markets such as UK, Benelux and France are now considering sustainability as something that directly impacts them, and upon which they can have an impact, such as food waste reduction, personal health and nutrition and clean label claims such as 'locally sourced,' ‘no artificial ingredients’ and ‘organic," it added.

The research also showed that 84% of consumers believe it is important for each person to contribute to sustainability, but three in four relegate the main responsibility to the industry.

The largest barrier to adopting sustainability remains consumers' lack of understanding of their personal impact on the planet, Kerry noted.

Kerry's Insights Director Soumya Nair said today's research shows some really surprising results that have positioned sustainability as a must-have rather than a differentiator among consumers.

Soumya Nair said that "sustainability-minded consumers" are actively looking for food and beverage products that have a significantly positive impact on the planet as well as on their personal health and wellbeing, seeking products with clean label claims and locally sourced ingredients.

She also said the different expectations between consumer demographics shows how consumers expect companies to do more outside of issues such as sustainable packaging, carbon emissions and water conservation.

"These findings have major implications for the food and drinks industry as we are clearly at a significant and critical moment regarding sustainable nutrition. By helping consumers access more sustainable products, we can help them eat healthier, with less waste and improve local communities as a result," she added.