Campden BRI has just completed a project which intended to help the food industry better understand the impact of ethical and environmental concerns on purchasing decision.
Shoppers were questioned about their attitudes to ethical and environmental aspects of food and divided into four groups: deep; intermediate; shallow; and environmentally-focused.
The researchers then assessed their actual shopping practices for specific categories for which ethical and environmental alternatives are available, such as eggs, tea, and milk. They found that the attitudes did not necessarily carry through. Rather, they based their purchasing decisions on a range of factors, including brand, nutrition, family preference and product quality.
“Our research suggests that attitudes and purchase behaviours regarding these products are highly personal, depending on individual issues and differ between product types,” said project leader Dr Michelle Chen.
This conclusion is significant because food manufacturers and marketers are currently investing heavily in initiatives to improve foods’ ethical and environmental credentials – and there is certainly a need for more sound products.
De Chen said: “Manufacturers and retailers need to ensure they don’t leap to conclusions when making important packaging and labelling decisions.”
She advises developing an understanding of effectiveness and influence of on-pack information on consumers’ pre-purchasing decision-making and ultimately their purchasing behaviour.
Food provenance matters?
A similar tendency for consumers not to put their views into action was identified by researchers from Mintel, who have recently published a new report Food Provenance.
“What came out very strongly in our consumer research was that when it comes to British and local food, people's goodwill and interest often fails to translate into action,” Kiti Soininen, senior food analyst at Mintel told FoodNavigator.com.
For example, 40% of people say ‘I buy British to support local businesses’ but only 19% are ‘willing to pay a bit more for British food’.
Similarly 48% ‘buy local food when possible’ but just 13% ‘seek out local food’.
And 48% think that ‘it's important to know which region/country food comes from’ but only 36% ‘pay attention to food origin’.