Horsegate: 50% of shoppers won’t pay more for horse-free meat

Horsegate public attitudes 400

Any thoughts that current outrage over horsegate might encourage shoppers to pay more for their supermarket food can be forgotten, according to new research commissioned for The Grocer.

In a poll by The Grocer/YouGov Omnibus of more than 2,000 consumers, 50% said they were not prepared to pay even a penny more to ensure their meat does not contain horse (not including vegetarians).

And while 35% were prepared to pay more (15% weren’t sure), the premium most are willing to stump up to ensure greater traceability was less than 10%.

“These 50% aren’t saying it is acceptable for a product to contain horse,” said Richard Cullen, consumer insight manager at the AHDB. “They are saying what they are already paying is enough and that a product should contain what it says on a pack.”

The survey shows growing revulsion as the scandal widened to all corners of Europe this week, with 44% of shoppers concerned this is just the tip of the iceberg, and only 18% confident the industry will get on top of the situation soon.

And with prime minister David Cameron calling on grocery retailers to respond, Sainsbury’s group commercial director Mike Coupe urged the industry to act collectively, and with speed. “Trust in the industry has been greatly impacted. This is an issue upon which longstanding battlelines need to be redrawn. Ultimately we will be judged by our collective and swift action. Events are still unfolding, but we and our regulatory bodies need to proceed calmly but swiftly to get to the bottom of this.”

The Grocer’s research suggests shopper habits are changing. The survey found 32% of meat-eaters who had heard about the scandal vowed to eat less processed beef, with 29% buying more British meat. A further 6% said they would eat less meat, while 2% planned to stop eating meat altogether.

And although only 4% planned to switch supermarkets, 30% said they would shop from a local butcher more often, and 24% vowed to cook from scratch more.

However, consumer habits die hard, with 41% of meat-eaters saying the scandal would not change the way they shop or eat – a statistic that barely varied even by social demographic. Tim Lang, professor of food policy at City University London said he was disappointed but not surprised.

“If you look at BSE, 30% refused to change their eating habits at all, even though there was a serious health issue. People don’t change their diets unless they get heart disease, cancer or pregnant.” ”

To view full survey results