Horsemeat scandal means ‘traceability’ more important to consumers

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 25th March 2013

The latest findings from global market research organisation Mintel suggests that the importance of ‘traceability’ has more than doubled for consumers in the UK following the horse meat scandal in January 2013.

The research comes as more meat imported to the UK has been identified as horse meat. On Friday 22 March, the UK Food Standards Agency announced that Lancashire County Council had identified 100kg of horse meat imported from Hungary labelled as beef.

In a report looking at provenance in food and drink, consumer attitudes were compared before the horse meat scandal (December 2012) and after the revelations (March 2013. The research found that while ‘traceability’ is only of concern to 14 per cent of British shoppers, this figure had risen from just 6 per cent in three months.

The research also suggested that the scandal has meant that UK shoppers are more interested than ever in eating food produced in Britain. In December 2012, 40 per cent of British shoppers agreed that British food was better quality than imported food; by March 2013, that figure had risen to 49 per cent.

According to Mintel, 34 per cent of British shoppers said that food and non-alcoholic drinks being of British origin was the most influential factor in their buying choices; in December 2012 this figure was 30 per cent. Being of local origin has also risen in importance, from 17 per cent in December 2012 to 21 per cent in March 2013. Regional food also saw a rise from 10 per cent in December 2012 to 14 per cent in March 2013.

“The importance of food being British has leapt in popularity in the wake the horse meat scandal. The food industry is likely to feel the effects for some time, with consumers taking a greater interest in British and local origin and a more proactive stance on questioning the provenance of their food. The horse meat scandal has re-affirmed consumers’ faith in the quality of British-produced food,” said Amy Price, Senior Food and Drink Analyst at Mintel.

“Focusing on promoting transparency to consumers, either through proving British sourcing through logos such as the Red Tractor or through placing greater emphasis on traceability, as well as communicating steps that are being taken to shorten or tighten the supply chain would likely resonate with consumers in the current climate, helping to build credibility and restore trust among consumers.” Ms Price said.

But while the nation grows more interested in British food, the consumer has become ever more suspicious about the food on their plate. Almost 68 per cent of Brits admitting it is hard to know when food is really British, up from 59 per cent in December 2012. Despite this questioning, today, a third (33 per cent) of the nation say that they are willing to pay more for food and drink with a “made in Britain” label – a figure which has risen from a quarter (24 per cent) back in December 2012.