The reputation of British food and drink generates differing responses from trade buyers and consumers across Europe and North America, according to new research by Food from Britain (FFB), the UK export marketing agency.

The agency said that most of the trade has a positive perception of British food and drink, particularly highlighting convenience, and innovative products, such as ethnic foods and ready meals, as areas of strength. 
Consumers in export markets, on the other hand, have a far more limited awareness of British food and drink, mainly associating it with traditional goods such as jam, biscuits and whisky. In France 67% of those surveyed purchased British tea, while 57% bought alcoholic drinks. 

This is not surprising as the research demonstrates that consumers have a low awareness of the source of imported products in general, with many having no idea of the country of origin of regular purchases. This was most strongly exemplified in Italy where 74% of respondents were unclear where their regular food purchases were produced. 

The country of origin only became important when consumers were actively seeking out goods with a distinct culinary association or authenticity to a particular country, such as paella or pasta. Their desire for these products was often stimulated by travelling.  Otherwise assurance in the retail outlets or product branding was a more compelling influencer to purchase. 

The research was carried out by FFB across six European markets and the US, to gain a true understanding of the current attitude to British food and drink post BSE and foot and mouth (FMD), in particular meat and dairy products.   

When looking at attitudes to meat, most consumers expressed a preference for domestic meat products, having greater confidence in local safety standards.  However, there is still a strong trade demand for British meat because it is generally valued for its good quality. 

The highest levels of consumer concern were seen in Germany, Spain and Italy, where a respective 44%, 38% and 36% still thought British meat could be unsafe to eat. The lowest levels of concern were in the Netherlands and Belgium, where only 17% of those interviewed were worried by the safety of British meat.  

Food shoppers noticeably in the US put strong faith in the strict FDA regulations, so aren’t overtly concerned about the safety of imported food, and Dutch and Belgian consumers look to their retailers to inform and reassure them about food safety. As a result confidence in British food has not been adversely affected by FMD and BSE.