Food firms are missing out on a golden chance
Published:  31 March, 2006

The increasing availability of local quality foods is driving sales of fresher foods with a clear provenance, according to a new report by Food from Britain (FFB) unveiled last week at Food and Drink Expo


But a significant opportunity is being missed by many foodservice outlets, with almost three-quarters of consumers anxious to see locally-sourced foods identified on menus, in particular, meat and poultry, according to the report. FFB is urging pubs and restaurants to meet this demand and alert suppliers to the opportunity.

The exclusive research, conducted by international food and drink experts IGD, which canvassed 2,000 consumers was commissioned by Food from Britain and supported by William Reed Exhibitions. It shows that since March 2005, the percentage of shoppers claiming to buy local food and drink has increased by six per cent (year-on-year growth), with almost two-thirds of shoppers (65 per cent) now buying local, and a further nine per cent expressing an interest in buying if availability was better.

The definition of 'local' differs by region. Consumers in both Wales and Scotland described 'local' as being from their countries, while those from England related the produce to its county of origin.

Local produce, sold in supermarkets, continues to be the preferred place for buyers to stock up on regional foods, with almost half of consumers citing this as their favoured outlet, according to the research. Farm shops (25 per cent), butchers (24 per cent) and farmers markets (21 per cent) are still popular outlets for local purchases, illustrating that there is a need for different purchasing channels when it comes to regional food.

While vegetables and fruits are still key categories, there is a move towards cross-category purchasing with a demand for cooked meat products such as pies and pasties, and fresh produce including meat and eggs.

Main reasons for buying local remain freshness, which dictates the purchasing behaviour of 64 per cent of shoppers, closely followed by support for local producers (31 per cent) and a concern for the environment (25 per cent). Other key triggers include taste (20 per cent) and quality (16 per cent).

The research highlights a few notable changes in purchasing behaviour, including a 14 per cent (year-on-year growth) increase in consumers aged 24 to 34 buying local food and 32 per cent more shoppers (year-on-year percentage point increase) in the A demographic group purchasing local food, a group specifically identified as an opportunity last year. London still holds the biggest purchasing power for local and regional foods and also the greatest desire to purchase more.