10 July 1998

Consumers are not bothered

CONSUMERS are not concerned about genetically modified foods, and assume British meat is safe, traceable and produced using welfare-friendly methods.

Those are the key findings of a new survey by the Institute of Grocery Distribution, which also reveals that appearance and perceived value for money have more influence on beef buying than BSE. While consumers instinctively want to buy British meat and fresh produce, country of origin has less impact on product choice than other factors.

The survey, which involved 16 focus groups in five regions, shows little concern about production methods and a belief that British meat industry standards are higher than those of other countries and more rigidly enforced.

John Woolven, IGD research director, said the beef industry needed to improve consumer satisfaction by improving the efficiency of the supply chain, reducing product variability and grabbing a larger share of the convenience food market.

Most buyers are happy that BSE was under control. They trust British farmers, retailers and caterers not to expose them to unsafe products, but will buy imports if quality and price are unsatisfactory.

Peter Barr, chairman of IGD and Hazelwood Foods, told a Royal Show Press conference that consumers wanted a good reason to buy British and there were times when a regional identity was preferable. The survey findings presented an opportunity to enhance the competitiveness of UK producers by providing outstanding service to consumers.