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Farmers And Growers Deserve To Be Rewarded For Their Enterprise And Investment

I came across an important report recently on food shopping trends which has some interesting information for producers, retailers and shoppers.

The study – UK Food Trends: A Snapshot in Time from the influential Lloyd’s Register – found that 75 percent of UK shoppers want supermarkets to stock only food from sustainable and ethical sources, while 72 percent also expect supermarkets, shops and restaurants to know the exact ingredients of all the foods they sell.

It’s clear now that sustainability is increasingly driving purchasing decisions as people want to know more about their food and are being influenced steadily by programmes such as Blue Planet and the ‘Attenborough effect’ to factor in environmental issues.

The process has already influenced packaging decisions due to concerns over single use plastic ending up in landfill and our oceans. Food safety is also now an important consideration and has been for some considerable time.

The report found that one in every three consumers say that their food safety concerns had increased since last year. And one-in-five had changed brands following food safety incidents or product recalls. Around 60 percent said the biggest safety turn off resulted from reports of bacterial contamination such as salmonella or listeria.

It didn’t come as a surprise to me that 40 percent of consumers, however, are not prepared to pay more for ethical or sustainable food products. UK consumers largely remain wedded to the cheap food which has been a feature for generations.

It’s an attitude, of course, which expects producers, farmers and processors, to absorb the additional costs of the ethical and sustainable foods they are increasingly demanding on the shelves, chillers and freezers in supermarkets and other stores across the UK. I hope that consumers realise and accept that the days of cheap foods are drawing steadily to a close.

It must inevitably influence their merchandising and marketing approaches. It’s grossly unfair to put the cost burdens on growers and producers, especially the artisan enterprises, behind the development of innovative and healthyproducts.

Also interesting are findings in the report that some consumers are suspicious of claims made about foods being organic and vegan. Almost 27 percent of shoppers said there were ‘not confident’ that some food products labelled as organic are grown or reared using organic farming techniques.

This attitude may also explain why they are also reluctant to pay extra for them. Confidence in the food they are considering clearly remains a problem for many consumers.There remains a need to rebuild fragile trust by careful and more explicit labelling and informative marketing techniques.

I know from talking to many of our 500 members and other local businesses of the strength of their commitment to wholesome, sustainable food as well as honest branding, labelling and marketing. As a result, our industry has earned a well-deserved reputation for integrity in all their products and techniques. It’s an industry based on excellence on farm, processing, marketing and logistics.

Our role in Food NI will remain sharply focused on promoting the essential qualities and value of our food and drink, as well as the professionalism and integrity of the people behind the products here, to Britain, the Republic of Ireland and further afield.