The Viennese Food System





cbased is analysing the food ecosystems in Vienna with the intentions to develop suggestions for innovation policy in this sector.

The ecosystem analysis is based on a literature review, interviews with stakeholder and analysis of institutions on three governance layers that shape the food system. 

Innovation policy can either promote single innovation projects or food system innovation. In both cases the demands for supported projects have become more demanding as the side effects of the food system (i.e. greenhouse gas emissions, food waste) have to be taken into account when taking decisions.

The project is lead by the Austrian Institute of Economic Research (WIFO, Franz Sinabell) and jointly elaborated with University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU, Henry Jäger – Institute for Food Processing, Christian Garaus – Institute for Marketing and Innovation).

The recommendations to the City to Vienna

Action line 1: Interventions in the nutrition sector must take into account the associated side effects. Effects exist on greenhouse gas emissions, population health, and the biosphere. Changing diets can contribute significantly to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and lowering costs in the healthcare system as well as restoring the biosphere of the planet.

Action Line 2: Animal foods are mostly responsible for the high GHG emissions of the food system and also for diet-related diseases. Reducing animal food consumption is therefore a necessary condition in the design of food system interventions to reduce negative impacts on climate, biosphere, and health.

Action line 3: To capture the effects of dietary behaviour on climate and health goals, the status quo and changes must be measured. Based on this, goals can be formulated and it can be verified that interventions are helping to achieve the goals. In favour of local interventions is the fact that there is little hope that the side effects of the food sector will be “mitigated” at the European level and that consumer preferences also influence the products that are in demand.

Action line 4: The city of Vienna should promptly either develop its own nutrition guidelines or influence the nutrition guidelines of the federal government, because the currently valid guidelines make climate-friendly cooking and thus the implementation of climate-friendly communal catering more difficult. The obvious approach is to follow the EAT–Lancet planetary health diet, which simultaneously optimises environmental as well as health impacts (see Lancet Commission (2019).

Action line 5: Food system interventions, especially if they are aimed at system innovations, require cross-institutional and cross-divisional alignment and coordination. Given the large number of strategies in the City of Vienna area, this is likely to be rather commonplace. If the need for coordination for system innovations in the food sector is higher than expected, then either an institution can be entrusted with ecosystem management or set up specifically for this purpose.

Action line 6: It is obvious to transfer the tasks resulting from interventions in the food system to the already responsible actors, to coordinate the implementation and to monitor the progress. Building on existing interventions is primarily about integrating climate goals into target systems and measures, rather than developing new interventions. For example, community catering in the sphere of influence of the City of Vienna, in coordination with the Eco-Purchase Program, should record the GHG emissions of the products purchased and set reduction targets by 2030.

Action line 7: Changes in the food system and in dietary behaviour must be accompanied by comprehensive information and education campaigns so that the goals and relevance are comprehensible to citizens. This task is currently neglected at all levels in Austria, but should be an integral part of activities aimed at the food system.

Action line 8: The development of a functioning startup ecosystem for substitute products for animal foods should be actively supported or managed. This involves the networking of existing elements, the simple and cost-effective use of existing infrastructure, the activation of potential founders and access to financing instruments that are geared to the progress of the project. It is essential that this orientation is clearly communicated and thus attention is steered.

Action line 9: Because scientific excellence and access to scientific infrastructure are essential factors for the development of substitute products, it should be analysed whether there are deficits here that can be compensated for either through new research infrastructure, research projects or new professorships.

Action line 10: The city of Vienna is a major consumer in the food sector and can therefore shape the demand for innovative substitute products for animal foods. The city’s communal catering can demand locally: an innovation-oriented procurement policy, can help young companies to ramp up their production and to increase economies of scale. Likewise, innovations in the field of vegan substitute products can be presented in the context of buffets of the city of Vienna.

Action line 11: When intervening in the area of nutrition, the downstream sector (e.g. gastronomy, trade) must also be taken into account. Appropriate – often low-threshold – support services must be developed here, or existing programs must be further developed, so that the desired changes also achieve the necessary broad impact that reaches wide sections of the population.

Action line 12: Within the City of Vienna, innovation coaches should support employees in the use of modern and agile innovation methods so that the change processes lead to functioning solutions both promptly and in a way that conserves resources. With these methods it is much easier to deal with risks in the design of government interventions and to counteract the – often quite understandable – risk aversion of the public sector. 


Mayerhofer, P., Sinabell, F.  (WIFO), Garaus, C., Hanz, K., Jäger, H., Kunesch, C., Schottroff, F. (BOKU), Leo, H. (cbased), Food-Standort Wien, Innovationen in der Wertschöpfungskette für Lebensmittel in der Metropolregion, WIFO – BOKU – cbased, Studie im Auftrag der MA 23, Wien, 2022, download.

The Lancet Commission, Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT–Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable Food systems, 2019,

Further resources and downloads

Download section

Additional resources

Culture, Food, Climate

The path to sustainability being discussed by

– Valentina Bosetti (Professor of Environmental and Climate Change Economics, Bocconi University)

– Friedrike Döbbe (PhD researcher, Department of Management and Organisation, Stockholm School of Economics) and 

– Hannes Leo (cbased & EFIS)

An event in the CIVICA Public Lecture Series Tours d’Europe organised by the Stockholm School of Economics.