02 March 2007, 20:54 PM
  • New research by Oxfam for Fairtrade Fortnight has revealed that although 92% of British consumers buy their food and drink at major supermarkets, just 11% of them actually want to do so.

In fact, the study revealed that most of us would prefer to buy direct from farmers (69%), local independent retailers (54%) or to grow our own food (47%), according to the survey of more than 1,700 UK residents.

This reluctance to shop at supermarkets, fuelled by concerns that they are still not doing enough to tackle increasing ethical and environmental issues, is coupled with an acceptance that they are hugely influential. Almost half of us (48%) think supermarkets can do the most to change how we shop - one in three (30%) think consumers can do the most themselves, and just 16% see the Government as having the greatest influence on our shopping habits.

The survey also reveals some of the increasing ethical concerns underpinning shopping habits. The biggest factor considered by consumers when buying food is whether the product comes in an excessive amount of packaging (86%), followed by whether the product is fairly traded (78%), how much it costs (75%) and whether it was air-freighted a long distance (65%). Two-thirds of us (68%) have refused to buy something because we associate its producer with unethical practices, while 80% of us intend to buy more fair trade goods this year. By comparison, 60% say they will buy more organic food, and 51% will be buying more GM-free food.

David McCullough, director of trading at Oxfam, said, “Some supermarkets have made excellent progress to date. The Co-Op’s commitment to fair trade has been outstanding for many years, while the decision by Sainsbury’s and Waitrose to stock only fair trade bananas will have enormous benefits in the Windward Isles. Marks and Spencer, meanwhile, continue to lead the way in terms of making a wider range of fair trade products available on the high street.

“We would strongly encourage competitors such as Tesco and Asda to take their lead from such groundbreaking moves. By doing more to commit to fair trade practices and reduce their environmental impact, the biggest retailers can start to reverse the suspicion felt by many consumers over their huge influence.”