Latest research from Mintel questioning 993 adults finds strong preferences among consumers towards buying British and locally grown produce.

Half of consumers try to buy British when shopping for meat, this rises to almost three-quarters of those aged 65 and over. A further 44% of adults try to buy British when shopping for fruit and vegetables, while almost a third look for British fish. As with meat purchasers, those aged 65 and over are most likely to seek out British fruit, vegetables and fish. The patriotic shopper is also more likely to be found within the financially better off AB socio-economic group.

Frustrated shoppers – as demand exceeds supply

Research shows a considerable degree of frustration among shoppers who are willing to buy British but are unable to do so because the produce is not stocked by their retailer. Three in ten consumers would buy more British produce if it were available, again this rises to over 42% in the 65 plus age group. Over a fifth complain that supermarkets do not carry enough British-grown fresh fruit and vegetables, while 13% object to having to buy fruit and vegetables grown in other countries.

A further 12% resort to buying meat from other countries when British meat is not available, while 11% of adults feel that supermarkets do not carry enough fresh British meat.

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“While such attitudes may not necessarily translate into action, it would appear that demand for British produce is greater than supply,” comments James McCoy, consumer analyst.

There remain a core group of four in ten adults who simply buy what is available in the supermarket and do not usually notice where it comes from. A further 28% enjoy the benefit of being able to buy anything all year round, whether or not the product is in season.

One in four shop at farmer’s markets

Almost a quarter of British consumers (23%) claim to shop at farmer’s markets/farm stores to buy locally grown produce; the same number do so to support their local economy and believe the produce is fresher.

Women are considerably more active than men in buying local produce with 27% shopping at farmer’s markets compared to 19% of males. Some 14% of consumers claim that they would not know where to go to get locally grown produce.

“This may be due to a shortfall of information, labelling etc by retailers and perhaps a lack of effective advertising by local fruit and vegetables producers” comments James McCoy.

Price is an issue to one in ten consumers, who are not interested in the source of the produce, providing it is cheap. Just 8% prefer to grow their own fruit and vegetables.

Strong growth in convenience foods limits market growth of local produce

The strongest growth in food expenditure over the last ten years has been in convenience foods rising 66%. Conversely, all products which are able to be supplied from local sources have experienced a real decline. The move towards consumption of greater volumes of processed and prepared foods has tended to work against buying locally grown and reared produce.

Although the British population continues to age, an ageing population will not necessarily result in greater demand for locally grown produce, as younger consumers have grown accustomed to buying out-of-season produce all year round. It is highly unlikely that these younger consumers will willingly give up their ability to buy produce all year round, which means that suppliers of locally grown foods will have more success in marketing their products as complementary to those sourced from abroad.

The Internet has proved a successful medium in retailing locally produced foods offering a convenient shopping option. Consumers are already growing used to the use of the Internet for their shopping when ordering via the main multiples’ websites. Careful targeting by Internet-based suppliers of local produce could reap rewards.

Striking a balance between buying local and year-round availability

While consumers are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their tastes, seeking out foods which originate from around the world, demand is simultaneously being developed for foods which are sourced locally.

Ultimately, Mintel believes that a balance will be struck between year-round availability and buying local/British. Mintel expects the focus towards buying local produce to become sharper as consumers adopt an ethical stance towards the regional/local marketplace. Future developments may lead to the creation of regional brands which will appeal to consumers who are purchasing local produce to support their local economy and boost regional identity.