The horse meat scandal, which broke in January 2013, has once again put the spotlight on the sourcing of food, with concerns raised over the way in which meat from overseas has entered the UK food chain. And new research from Mintel reveals that the scandal has already made its mark on British consumers when it comes to food provenance as buying British, local and regional food grows in importance among today’s consumers.

In an exclusive report looking at provenance in food and drink, consumer attitudes were compared pre-horse meat scandal (Dec 2012) and post revelations (Mar 2013). The research found British origin continues to rise in importance among the nation’s shoppers, indeed, in December 2012 four in ten (40%) Brits agreed that British food was better quality than imported food, in just three months this figure has risen to one in two (49%).

In addition, Mintel asked consumers about factors which would influence their buying choice in food and non-alcoholic drinks – British origin (34%) was the most important issue to shoppers- a figure which had risen from three in ten (30%) at the end of 2012. Being of local origin has also risen in importance, from 17% in 2012 to more than one in five (21%) in March 2013. Regional, likewise, saw a rise up from 10% in December 2012 to 14% in March 2013.

Amy Price, Senior Food and Drink Analyst said:

“The importance of food being British has leapt in popularity in the wake the horse meat scandal. The food industry is likely to feel the effects for some time, with consumers taking a greater interest in British and local origin and a more proactive stance on questioning the provenance of their food. The horse meat scandal has re-affirmed consumers’ faith in the quality of British-produced food.”

While “traceability” is only of concern to 14% of British shoppers, this latest research shows it is an issue which has shown the greatest increase in importance amongst today’s more savvy consumer – a figure which has risen from just 6% in three months.

“Even in the aftermath of the horse meat scare, traceability as a key choice factor is far behind, for example, British origin. This indicates that British origin is seen by consumers to provide the most effective shortcut to reassurance, when considering various food issues.”

“Focusing on promoting transparency to consumers, either through proving British sourcing through logos such as the Red Tractor or through placing greater emphasis on traceability, as well as communicating steps that are being taken to shorten or tighten the supply chain would likely resonate with consumers in the current climate, helping to build credibility and restore trust among consumers.” Amy continues.

Not only is British origin growing in importance, but consumers are also becoming more passionate about supporting British farmers and growers. Three quarters (74%) of all consumers feel it is the duty of the retailers to support British farmers and growers – up from (68%) in December 2012.

But while the nation grows more interested in British food – the consumer has become ever more suspicious about the food on their plate – almost seven in ten (68%) Brits admitting it is hard to know when food is really British up from 59% in December 2012. Despite this questioning, today, a third (33%) of the nation say that they are willing to pay more for food and drink with a “made in Britain” label – a figure which has risen from a quarter (24%) back in December 2012.

“The fact that consumers are willing to pay more for British produce in these difficult financial times is extremely encouraging for British food producers. British growers and producers should emphasise these tangible benefits in their marketing messages in order to remind consumers of the positives attributes of buying British.” concludes Amy.

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