16 February 2021, 08:53 AM
  • IGD’s latest shopper confidence index revealed that trust in the food and drink sector is rocketing, and confidence levels have reached their highest since before the UK entered its first coronavirus lockdown
Trust in the British food industry is at an all-time high – here’s why

Trust in the food industry is at a record high due to strong support for local communities and suppliers, as well as a focus on health and ethics, IGD found in its most recent survey.

“Trust in the food industry for health and ethics is at record levels, particularly in relation to providing healthy products, supporting local suppliers, farmers and communities,” Michael Freedman, senior shopper insight manager at ShopperVista IGD told Speciality Food.

“With a heightened focus on locality, accelerated by the pandemic, 59% of shoppers trust the industry to support local suppliers and farmers, which is a 7% increase on December 2020.”

Farm shops in particular pride themselves on their support of local producers, according to Emma Mosey, the owner of Minskip Farm Shop in Boroughbridge. “We support almost 100 local farmers and small suppliers in the shop – by choosing to shop with us, customers are keeping their money in the local area. By employing more local people, who live locally and spend their wages locally, this impact is heightened still further.”

Thanks to growing sales sparked by the pandemic, the shop has added more than £1.5m into the local supply chain in 2020 – triple what it did in 2019.

IGD’s recent data builds on research conducted in December, which found that 85% of shoppers said buying a product that supports British producers was important to them, up 4% from the previous year. “With the UK leaving the EU at the end of December 2020, more shoppers than ever before now say that the EU Exit may encourage them to buy more British or locally sourced products in future (58%),” Michael continued.

In order to make the most of the growing support for British food and drink, Michael said fine food retailers should champion their locally made products. “Independent retailers should take the opportunity to communicate the local provenance of their products, to meet shopper demand and help maintain continued trust.

“Maintaining the high levels of trust that shoppers have placed in the industry into the future will be essential in a post-EU Britain,” he said.

To capitalise on the growing focus on locality, Ben Ozmen, founder of London-based BENS Greengrocer has sought to cater to local neighbourhoods by offering same-day delivery using electric scooters. “Building a relationship with your customers, it’s something that you simply don’t get in the bigger stores, that personal touch is irreplaceable,” Ben tells Speciality Food. “It’s also important to respond to what your community needs. For example, we have a number of customers who have been shielding or having to self isolate, so increasing our delivery slots has been essential.

“We, like many other small retailers, want to be a force of good in the community, and we do our bit to keep our carbon footprint low with deliveries on electric scooters and reducing our plastic packaging, and it’s something our local community has really responded to.”

Shopper confidence grows on vaccine rollout
Indeed, despite consumer confidence reaching its highest level since February 2020, driven by Britain’s vaccine rollout, overall confidence remains fragile, IGD says. The latest data from the Office for National Statistics revealed that the UK economy shrank by a record 9.9% in 2020 – twice as much as the previous largest annual fall on record.

However, GDP picked up in December as the economy grew by 1.2%. That helped to boost January’s score on the IGD Shopper Confidence Index to -5, the highest since before the UK’s first lockdown. Confidence increased the most among those aged 55 and over. Thanks to the successful vaccine rollout, 19% of respondents now expect to be better off in 2021, the most since July 2020.

While British consumer confidence remains on rocky ground, retailers can build on the growing trust in the food and drink sector by continuing to support their local suppliers and communicating the benefits of local produce to their customers.

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