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Ethics impact consumer food shopping patterns

03 December 2010

Awareness of ethical and environmentally friendly produced food is a key factor in consumer choice of where and what food they buy, according to a new report on the public’s attitude to food

Awareness of ethical and environmentally friendly produced food is a key factor in consumer choice of where and what food they buy, according to a new report on the public’s attitude to food.

Findings from the Plunkett Foundation’s Fair Food report reveal that almost eight in 10 consumers have changed their food shopping patterns in some way over the past 18 months, due to part to the current economic climate.

Ethically produced foods and the environmental impact of food production are also contributing to the change in what we buy and where.

The report, compiled by leading market research agency SPA Future Thinking, interviewed more than 1,000 people nationally to understand current attitudes and claimed behaviour when it comes to food.

The report has fed consumer understanding into the Fair Food Campaign for Making Local Food Work. It found that the way in which food is produced is set to become a more widely considered topic for two in three of us over the next 3-5 years.

According to Andrew Tharme, managing director of SPA Future Thinking: “This, and other research we have conducted, demonstrates that in the current economic climate, consumers are re-evaluating their shopping behaviour. They also express a keenness to protect their communities by supporting local producers and suppliers.”

Tharme’s comment is endorsed by the finding that nine out of 10 of us express an interest in buying local food directly from a local producer or supplier, with fruit, vegetables and eggs topping the list.

Report findings also reveal that three in 10 of us actively shop in channels other than supermarkets and one in 10 of us choose to buy from local shops and suppliers.

Interestingly, the survey also identified that half of consumers interviewed would be interested in growing their own food for personal consumption, while more than a third would consider being involved in a food growing project or community bulk-buying scheme. The under 35s were the keenest.

Unsurprisingly, quality, price, availability, range and convenience are the top five most important factors for us when buying food. Convenience is a key barrier in the mis-match between a stated desire to buy Fair Food and where the money is actually spent.

The majority of us still buy from supermarkets, but with a growing desire to know where our food comes from and how it is produced, poses some fascinating questions for the ‘food landscape’ of the future.


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