While Britons are happy to count themselves members of a globalised society, a recent Mintel report British Lifestyles found that 44% said they preferred British brands when it came to buying food and drink for the home.
This demand for domestic products across nearly all categories was being fuelled by the over-65s, with 74% of older consumers saying they opted for British food at home compared with one third (37%) of younger consumers.
Why do Britons buy British?
Good quality: 73%
Safe to use: 58%
Good value for money: 51%
(Source: Mintel report, British Lifestyles, 2015)
Senior Mintel analyst, Ina Mitskavets explained why this may be.
“Britishness is especially effective when marketing to older consumers, who put more trust in the quality, safety and value for money they associate with products that are ‘Made in the UK’. Perhaps it is simply something that they are used to from childhood, something that provides extra reassurance and comfort.”
A report by Catalyst Corporate Finance (CCF) confirmed that recent food scandals and a subsequent mistrust of processed food was a significant factor.
“The recent horsemeat scandal has influenced consumers’ shopping habits, increasing the importance they attribute to the traceability and provenance of ingredients and undermining their trust in some retailers,” it said.
Heritage and independent (H&I) brands, associated with lower levels of food processing, inspired greater levels of trust amongst consumers.
Combining tradition and innovation
Keith Glasspoole, deputy managing director at Ipsos ASI said: "[Some brands] can create a range of Union Jack-festooned packaging without a trace of dissonance, whereas other brands would have to more carefully consider whether flying the flag can work for them."
The CCF report cited baby food manufacturer, Ella’s Kitchen, and vegetable crisps, Tyrrells, as examples of two H&I brands that were outperforming their global competitors in their categories.
The eccentric imagery used on Tyrrells' packaging allowed it to convey an idea of quintessential Englishness, while the success of Ella’s Kitchen was down to the combination of a traditional product and innovative packaging.
“Ella’s Kitchen [became] a leader in packaging by offering its [organic baby food] in convenience, flexible plastic pouches rather than traditional glass jars. It now has an 18% share of the UK baby-food market,” the authors wrote.
Meanwhile for Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar Worldpanel, existing brands could easily boost their British credentials by switching to home-grown ingredients: “Hovis, for example, has focused on promoting its commitment to using 100% British wheat where possible, and has seen its products bought 8.8% more frequently than last year – the greatest increase in [our] top 10 list,” he said.
But when selling abroad, brands may be able to rely on the current buzz surrounding Britain.
Mitskavets told FoodNavigator: “Anecdotally, we know that British brands have raised their profile overseas since the London Olympics, the Royal wedding and the Royal births - this is especially true of the emerging markets (eg China) where the expanding wealth of the middle classes is allowing British brands to capitalise on their history and heritage.”
But manufacturers should also be careful to not over do it.
Glasspoole said: “In summer 2012 [during the London Olympics] it seemed as if the Union Jack [had] been liberally plastered everywhere. What might normally be a differentiator risks becoming a 'me-too', and what might normally create stand-out risks getting lost in the clutter.”