Eco-shoppers reject supermarket food

Shoppers choose alternatives to supermarket food in a bid to reduce their impact on the environment, experts have found.

Research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) showed that many consumers who prefer to get their food from sources such as organic vegetable boxes, community gardens and farm animal adoption, were motivated by ethical reasons.

The study, carried out by scientists at four UK universities, also showed that people who chose alternative food sources tended to eat more fruit and vegetables and improved their cooking skills.

Among the key motivations of those who took part in the study was a desire to reduce food miles, source Fairtrade products, or buy food with reduced environmental impacts and high animal welfare standards.

These shoppers also tended to change their behaviour when buying other goods, such as household products and clothes.

Although the majority of consumers still used supermarkets alongside other sources, researchers found they often do not trust them and felt the quality of supermarket food was inferior.

Dr Moya Kneafsey from Coventry University, who led the research, said: “Consumers enjoyed being able to ask the producers about their products and felt reassured about the quality and safety of the food.

“Alternative food schemes enable consumers to make a direct connection with food producers, and can result in relationships of trust and loyalty.”

However, Dr Kneafsey and her colleagues identified a number of challenges for alternative food producers in the future, such as how to maintain their connection with customers in the face of possible growth.

They said small producers are also under threat from the marketing strategies of large retailers to win back consumer trust, and the rapid expansion of larger organic box delivery schemes.

Kate Martin

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