Ethics high for British shoppers

British shoppers lead the field over their European counterparts when it comes to ethical shopping, research has revealed.

In its Ethical Shopping in Europe report, grocery experts IGD said British shoppers are significantly more likely to purchase ethically than the rest of Europe, considering factors such as organic, fairtrade or local sourcing when making decisions.

"Until recently, ethical food shoppers were seen as niche. Now as many as seven out of ten Europeans we surveyed buy ethically at least some of the time, and a quarter are dedicated shoppers who consider two or more ethical factors when shopping," Chief Executive Joanne Denney-Finch told IGD's Global Retailing conference.

"Priorities vary across Europe: the French are most interested in environmental issues; the Dutch are concerned about animal welfare; local sourcing is a priority for Poles whereas British shoppers are interested in a wide range of ethical issues. But there is immense growth potential for brands that can develop and emphasise ethical credentials, and tailor them to local markets at the appropriate time," she added.

The report unveils strikingly different behaviours and priorities around Europe.

Britain is at the forefront of the ethical shopping market, with 41% incorporating more than one ethical issue into their buying decisions. British shoppers are most likely to follow through their interest in ethical products into actual purchases and in particular, more likely to buy free range or Fair Trade products.

One in three (34%) German or Dutch shoppers are dedicated ethical shoppers and 31% of French shoppers are dedicated ethical shoppers.

Fewer than one in seven Spaniards (12%) or Poles (14%) are dedicated ethical shoppers.

Price (54%) and availability (36%) are seen as key barriers to the further growth of ethical shopping across Europe.

"The current combination of rising commodity prices and the global credit crunch could slow the rise of ethical shopping but is unlikely to reverse it. Ethical shopping is based on deep-seated beliefs and people will not backtrack on these lightly," said Denney-Finch.

"Increasingly, shoppers want products that combine ethical advantages, rather than a single issue. The challenge is for companies to communicate and label clearly to help shoppers navigate through this wide range of issues."

She told delegates that the European food and grocery industry is embracing ethical and sustainable practices but there are clear opportunities for those who go further.

"The winning companies of tomorrow will combine value with sustainability and develop new products and services at a competitive price for increasingly eco-conscious and socially-conscious consumers."