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Taste and quality usurp low prices as key buying criteria

07-Jun-2005

Taste and quality are more important criteria when buying food than price, claims new research from the UK.

Their findings contradict the line from supermarkets that low prices are the deciding factor in purchasing decisions.

The study, by the UK's national organic board on over a thousand consumers, found 95 per cent of respondents said, "taste and quality of food" was a vital factor when buying food for a meal to serve to family or friends.

Only 57 per cent plumped said low prices was important.

According to the UK Soil Association the results were consistent across all social classes.

"Even among the least well off, quality easily beat price - quality and taste were considered important by 94 per cent and low prices by 65 per cent," adds the UK group.

Making the leap between taste and quality, and organic food, the group said the findings "give public backing to the government's support for organic farming, and their efforts to increase production of organic food in the UK."

Organic food is taking off across Europe, driven by a multitude of reasons including environmental and food safety concerns, as well as a rejection of the ceaseless growth of mass food production.

Two years after the UK government, for example, launched an organic action plan for the entire food supply chain, the country has seen a 46 per cent rise in organic produce provided by UK farms.

At the beginning of 2004, about 4 per cent of UK farmland - 696,000 hectares - was under organic production, up from 30,000 hectares in 1993. The market is projected to grow by 9 per cent a year to 2007.

Overall, the EU organic market reached around €10 billion in 2002, according to data from UK market analysts Organic Monitor, but growth has slowed in recent years: an increase of 8 per cent between 2001 and 2002 shrunk to an estimated 5 per cent between 2002 and 2003.

According to the market researchers, dairy is one of the fastest growing organic categories, with 2004 sales up on the previous year by 12.5 per cent. Within the category, organic milk and yoghurt reported the highest levels of growth.

The Soil Association's further found that support for all indicators of food quality was higher among women than men, "a significant finding given that women are responsible for most household food shopping. "

Over two thirds of all those questioned also rated avoidance of artificial colouring or additives as important. High animal welfare standards (71 per cent), avoiding food grown with pesticides (65 per cent), and farming methods that encourage wildlife (63 per cent), were all rated higher than low prices.

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