Nearly half of people (46%) questioned in a YouGov survey, commissioned by the RSPCA’s Freedom Food scheme, reported that their trust in pre-prepared food, such as ready meals, had fallen since the horsemeat scandal crisis.
The vast majority of consumers (81%) would ideally prefer to cook from scratch, while only 12% of respondents said they would rather serve up ready meals or pre-prepared food.
“Britain – the ready meal capital of western Europe – has lost its trust in pre-prepared food while demand for higher welfare food is on the up,” concluded Freedom Food.
It also revealed new statistics claiming that the amount of Freedom Food products carrying its logo – including chicken, pork, salmon, eggs – had increased by more than one third (36%) during the past three years.
‘Animal welfare and food provenance’
That number is expected to grow by 12% this year, “suggesting animal welfare and food provenance is becoming ever more important in consumers’ minds”, said the pressure group.
Freedom Food has reported an increase in the number of farmers applying to join its higher welfare scheme since the horsemeat scandal. Also, figures from the Q Guild – the organisation representing butchers across England, Scotland and Wales – showed that some of its members claimed a 20–30% increase in sales.
Britons spent an estimated £3.8bn on ready meals, pies and pasties last year, according to market research specialist Mintel.
Meanwhile, at Food Manufacture’s Food safety conference at the National Motorcycle Museum, near Birmingham last week, many speakers agreed that the horsemeat crisis had dented consumer confidence. Sue Davies, chief policy adviser at consumer watchdog Which?, predicted the legacy of the crisis would be long-lasting.
Recent Which? research had shown that consumer now attributed more importance to food safety and higher welfare food than before the crisis. But price was still a dominant factor influencing purchasing decisions.
Andrew Rhodes, chief operating officer at the Food Standards Agency, agreed consumer confidence had been shaken and predicted that the origin and authenticity of food would come to dominate food industry headlines in the year.
Soaring sales after horsemeat crisis
So far, industry evidence for the RSPCA’s claims seems contractory. While chilled ready meals firm Greencore reported a significant fall in ready meal sales earlier this year, premium ready meals manufacturer Charlie Bigham has reported soaring sales after the horsemeat crisis.
Charlie Bigham, posh ready meal entrepreneur, told FoodManufacture.co.uk last month: sales had soared by 72% over the past year, thanks, in part, to the horsemeat crisis.
“The horsegate saga was good for us and businesses like ours,” said Bigham. “Some of the shocking stuff that came out around horsegate had a short-term negative impact. But it made people think, quite rightly, about where their food comes from and what is the true price of truly cheap food.”
To raise awareness of ethical food, Freedom Food is launching a new Compassionate Cook competition.
Meanwhile, has the horsemeat crisis affected your ready meal purchases? Test your views against those of other readers in our fun quiz.
Has your family bought fewer ready meals after the horsemeat crisis?
No.They are just right to enjoy while watching telly on a Friday night - and a lot of other nights too.21%
Yes. You can't trust what the label says anymore.36%
It's impossible to generalise because the quality varies so much.29%
So, what do you fancy tonight: traditional, Italian, Indian, Thai or Chinese?14%