Last year Which? launched a national debate on the future of food to better understand how people felt about food issues. The debate included in-depth citizens’ juries and painted a comprehensive picture of consumer views on food – from food prices and choice, to sustainability and production. These findings reinforced the results from our survey and travelling video booths.
Our research highlighted that people felt there was a need for clearer information about the types of food choices they should be making. Six in 10 people (61%) wanted more information on the quality of ingredients used, a similar percentage (58%) on food safety standards and more than half (53%) on where the food was produced.
Two-thirds of people (65%) said food prices, which have increased by 12% over the past five years, have become more important in the current economic climate, followed by quality (35%) and taste (32%). Previous Which? research found that with household budgets under increasing pressure, people are changing their shopping habits, eating out less and looking for special offers. People were however suspicious of price promotions with eight in 10 people (78%) feeling that offers in supermarkets in particular were misleading.
Overall, people wanted the Government to take a much stronger lead, developing a clear action plan to deal with the problems across the food chain.
Richard Lloyd, Which? executive director, said:
“In the wake of the horsemeat scandal, people want more information, including simple and honest labelling, so that they can be confident of what they are buying.
“Food issues are currently dealt with in a fragmented way, with no sense of direction or priorities. A much clearer Government vision and strategy is needed – one that is joined-up, consumer-focused and makes it clear that fraud and mislabelling will not be tolerated.”
Which? is calling for a new approach to how food issues are handled to give consumer interests much greater priority, based on:
1. Strong Government leadership and a clear food strategy;
2. Effective consumer engagement on food issues;
3. A more consumer-focused Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and a stronger Food Standards Agency (FSA);
4. A greater Government focus on clear pricing and long-term affordability; and
5. Enabling consumers to make healthy, sustainable and informed choices.
The recent horsemeat scandal further underlines the need for consumer interests to be given greater priority on food issues, with consumer confidence in food safety falling from nine in 10 (92%) in the October before the scandal, to seven in 10 (72%) in February.
We want Defra to be more consumer focused in its approach and the FSA should be given back responsibilities that were stripped away. Policy on nutrition, food labelling and standards needs to be returned to the Food Standards Agency in England and Wales and tougher enforcement on illegal practices must be taken.
Notes to editors
1. The Which? Future of Food debate was held in late 2012. Community Research, on behalf of Which?, conducted four two-day citizen juries in
Belfast, Cardiff, Glasgow and London between 4th and 28th September 2012. In total 53 consumers took part; each jury consisted of 12-14 people broadly representative of the home nation.
2. Populus, on behalf of Which?, interviewed a representative sample of 2114 UK adults online between 5th and 7th October 2012. Data were weighted to be representative of all UK adults. Populus is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by it’s rules.
3. Verve, on behalf of Which?, interviewed a representative sample of 1009 GB adults online between 14th and 15th June 2011. Data were weighted to be representative of all GB adults
4. Populus, on behalf of Which?, interviewed a representative sample of 2100 UK adults online between 24th and 27th August 2012. Data were weighted to be representative of all UK adults. Populus is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by it’s rules.
5. Populus, on behalf of Which?, interviewed a representative sample of 2064 UK adults online between 22nd and 24th February 2013. Data were weighted to be representative of all UK adults. Populus is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by it’s rules.
6. Download The future of food report.
7. Which? is currently campaigning for clearer unit pricing, so products can be easily compared,and we want special offers to be genuine. Find out more about our ‘Price it Right’ campaign.