The supply chain must find out why the vast majority of consumers value British agriculture yet few go out of their way to buy British food, Sir Don Curry said this week.
In new research, IGD found that 87% of the population considered farming to be important to Britain and saw it as part of the country’s heritage.
However, only one in five would go out of their way to buy British food if it meant paying more, and 51% did not care where their food came from.
Origin came ninth in a list of why consumers buy an item, with price, taste and sell-by date the top three considerations.
Sir Don, who chaired the
Commission on the Future of Farming and Food, said: “There is an urgent need to target the public, both as consumers purchasing food and as taxpayers supporting agriculture.
“A huge amount of work has been done to reconnect farmers with the supply chain, but what we haven’t done is give serious thought to reconnect consumers with farming.We have to find out why consumers’ favourable attitudes to home-produced food do not always result in corresponding behaviour in-store. Is it just about the price?”
He said that the multiples’ obsession with being the cheapest was a “major concern” and insisted that there was a growing number of people willing to pay more for food with added value, such as that which is locally produced.
Separate IGD research showed that 70% of people were interested in buying local or regional foods, he said.
He added: “I’m not naive enough to think we can convert 59 million consumers - there will always be those consumers in circumstances which mean they will never be able to buy on anything but price. But there is an increasing number of discerning consumers with growing incomes. There’s a huge prize to go for here.”
Sir Don was speaking to The Grocer prior to a conference addressing how to reconnect consumers with agriculture.
He challenged the various bodies that currently act as an interface with consumers, such as Linking Environment and Farming (LEAF), to consider whether they should come under a single umbrella.
“There’s a lot of really good stuff going on, but none of it is joined up. Everyone is doing what they believe is right, but there’s no common theme.”
Sir Don is to meet Tony Blair to discuss the industry this year.
Richard Clarke