Consumers go local as food purchasing changes amid pandemic

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

Consumers are supporting local
Consumers are supporting local

Related tags: coronavirus

Consumers are continuing to buy more food from local suppliers since the onslaught of the coronavirus pandemic.

That is the news from a report by the Food Standards Agency (FSA), entitled Covid-19 Consumer Tracker Waves 1 and 2​, which is looking monthly at attitudes and behaviours around food during the coronavirus pandemic.

The findings highlighted a distinct move towards more ‘local’ food purchasing behaviour, with 35% saying they were doing so more often and only 11% less often. 

Similarly, people reported buying from local suppliers, such as farm shops and veg box schemes more often. Almost a quarter (24%) reported doing this more often, 10% less often and 25% about the same – a net shift of 14%. 

The news comes as, earlier this month, research revealed that British consumers were looking to buy more British cheese.

In May, representatives of the British food industry called on the Government to back British food​, amid the current coronavirus pandemic.

Less waste

Those surveyed for the FSA also said they were wasting less food and eating together more often as a family, eating healthy meals more often, while also eating more snacks such as cakes, confectionery and savoury items. 

The numbers of people reporting eating food that had gone past its use-by date varied by food type, ranging from 17% for smoked fish to 36% for bagged salads.

People were buying fewer takeaways overall compared to before lockdown, due to financial reasons, cooking more at home, less availability and concerns over food safety and hygiene. 

Takeaways

There was a marked move away from buying food from takeaways in May, with 34% reporting doing this less often, 16% more often and 25% about the same. 

While the proportion of people concerned about food availability dropped from 31% in April to 21% in May, and concern around affordability dropped from 28% to 23% over the same time, these remained worries for a significant minority of the population 

The number of people who had skipped meals or cut down on meal sizes, due to not having enough money, remained stable between April (18%) and May (16%). 

Age, having a physical or mental health condition, and the presence of a child in the household were significant factors, the report said. 

“The Covid-19 Consumer Tracker is helping us understand people’s food concerns during these difficult times. This knowledge has already helped to inform the work of the Ministerial Taskforce on Vulnerabilities and will continue to do so,”​ said Heather Hancock, chair at the FSA 

“I would like to say thank you to the voluntary sector and local authorities, who are working hard to find a variety of routes to address governments in the UK. We will continue to play our part in responding to this global pandemic and ensuring food is safe and what it says it is.”

Interviews for Wave 1 were conducted online in April 2020 and Wave 2 fieldwork took place online in May 2020. Ipsos MORI surveyed a representative sample of 2,039 adults in Wave 1 and 2,040 adults in Wave 2. Participants were aged 16-75, living in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. 

Infographic of consumer habits during the coronavirus lockdown
Infographic of consumer habits during the coronavirus lockdown

Related topics: Supply Chain, Fresh produce, COVID-19

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