28 May 2020, 08:31 AM
  • Nearly three-quarters of people believe farmers are doing well to continue producing food
Study reveals consumers trust British farmers amidst COVID-19 crisis

Despite the many challenges faced by the agricultural sector throughout the pandemic, it seems that the hard work is paying off. According to a recent study by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), 71% of people believe that British farmers are doing a good job in producing food during the pandemic.

It comes at a time when consumers face uncertainty around being able to access products that are typically considered staples. What’s more, with the pandemic creating a greater sense of community, many consumers will no doubt be keen to support local farmers and producers. It’s led to an increase in sales that has proved positive for retailers, too. As more people turn to comforting, traditional British products, including meat and dairy, such goods have seen a growth in sales, particularly for staples such as beef mince, chicken breast, milk, cheese and cream.

However, whether people will continue to support British produce after coronavirus restrictions have eased remains to be seen, as it seems that price is a primary concern for shoppers today. Only 22% of people said they would buy British products if they were more expensive, whilst 51% said they will proactively seek out British products post-pandemic.

Christine Watts, chief officer for communications and market development at AHDB, said: “The work shows that Britishness is often a secondary factor for consumers. Therefore, industry messages need to go further than the country of origin, towards key points of difference like traceability, sustainability and quality. Only half of consumers said they would proactively seek out British products post-pandemic. However, we have a great story to tell about what we produce in this country and the products for consumers to enjoy.

“What is heartening is that many people are returning to the familiar staples, like meat and dairy, that they know and love. There is more home cooking and baking going on. There is more cooking from scratch, so people are buying the ingredients they need rather than ready-cooked dishes. And, of course, the options for out-of-home have been severely limited, with millions more meals now being eaten at home every week. This means recipe inspiration is key.

“Our #makeit campaign, working with colleagues in Scotland and Wales, is building inspiration around steaks and other high-value beef cuts. Meanwhile, #milkyourmoments is really catching people’s imagination and helping them connect with each other in these unprecedented times.

“All the research points to the fact that people trust and appreciate farmers, perhaps more now than before because of their rugged determination to get food to the supermarket shelves during the current coronavirus crisis.”

The results also show a shift in consumer behaviour when it comes to people claiming to be cutting back on their dairy and meat consumption. The number of people eating more meat has doubled to 14% since February, whilst those reducing their intake has dropped from 27% to 16%. The number of people claiming to cut back on dairy has dropped from 17% to 11%, whilst 12% of people are now claiming to be consuming more dairy, up from 5%.

Helping the retail sector to keep up with the fast pace at which consumer behaviour is changing, AHDB tracks retail sales of pork, beef, lamb, dairy and potatoes on a weekly basis, with new data released every Friday.

According to its latest results for the week ending 17th May, milk volumes have increased 14% compared to the same period last year, whilst cream continues to be the fastest-growing dairy category, having recorded 60% higher sales compared to the same week last year. Perhaps unsurprisingly, burger sales have continued to grow, up 51% this week, whilst fresh potato volume sales have grown 36% year-on-year. To stay up to date with the coronavirus weekly retail tracker, visit: ahdb.org.uk

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