Friday, 21 December 2007

Consumer Support for Farmers

This is Arthur with one of his beautiful White Park cattle. We feature Arthur today to highlight new market research from the Institute of Grocery Distribution where consumers were asked what the food trade could do better in 2008. Encouragingly, the biggest number of mentions, 43%, said that the trade should do more to support producers in Britain. This number was higher even than that for cutting back on unnecessary packaging which has long been a consumer bugbear, and came in at 41%. These findings support a trend which has been seen for over a year now where consumers views of farmers have changed from highly critical to being very sympathetic to their plight. Its a feeling that has been picked up by the grocery trade who are spending alot of money advertising their support for British farmers.(See blog post " Morrisons latest to support British Farming on 6th November). Interestingly the research shows how stong is the Fair trade message with 24% of consumers saying that the food trade should do more to support producers in developing countries.

This support for British farmers is excellent news. However those in farming have to work hard to maintain this support. One risk is that with all the talk of higher food prices, grain being at a record price, and dairy farmers at last getting better prices, consumers think that everthing is ok in the farming world now, not realising the huge pressures that livestock farmers face. Every one in farming, especially leaders such as the NFU, needs to communicate clearly that yes, some farmers are doing better but alot are barely surviving.

For the more on the research go to

Friday, 14 December 2007

Quality Critical

More figures today, this time in the shape of a survey undertaken by the Times about what's important to consumers when it comes to choosing where to eat and drink away from home.

In response to the question "On a scale of 1 to 5, what are the key factors when deciding where to eat and drink on the high street?", people rated quality as far and away the most important reason for their choice, with ethical issues and availability of organic/fairtrade options coming fourth and seventh respectively. The actual numbers are:

Quality - 4.54
Customer service - 4.33
Healthiness - 4.30
Price - 3.95
Ethical issues - 3.95
Restaurant environment - 3.79
Availability of organic/fairtrade options - 3.67
Speed - 3.37

Once more we have a reminder that no one can get away with inferior quality.

No Slowdown in Food and Drink Sales

The credit crunch does not seem to be having any effect on food and drink sales so far.Taylor Nelson Sofres, the market research company which records what consumers purchase in retail shops, has just released figures for the 12 weeks to 2nd December. They show that total food and drink sales grew by 5.1% versus the same period last year. The "big four",

Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury and Morrisons grew by more than this, further tightening their grip on the market, whilst the Coops, Somerfield, and independent stores lost share of sales.

The latest share of sales for each retailer are as follows:

Tesco - 31.7

Asda - 16.6

Sainsbury's - 16.1

Morrisons - 11.3

Coops - 4.3

Somerfield - 4.0

Waitrose - 3.8

Aldi - 2.6

Lidl - 2.3

Iceland - 1.7

Netto - 0.7


multiples - 1.6

Independents - 2.5

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Animal Welfare Action

Virtually every day in the last week or so has seen a story supporting better animal welfare.
It started with Jamie Oliver denouncing battery chicken farming on Channel 4, closely followed by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall on the same topic. As we know, where these two go today public opinion tends to follow tomorrow.

Then we had the introduction of "faux gras", a goose friendly way of producing foie gras where the birds are not force fed but rather have access to a rich diet to fatten naturally. The product has been launched in Waitrose which stopped selling foie gras 6 years ago, as well as Fortnum and Mason.

Monday's Times featured the launch of a campaign by farmers and industry figures to develop the British veal market, based on calves raised in first class welfare conditions, either outdoors and fed grass and milk, or grass only until the animals are about 16 months old. The industry is keen to see whether consumers will respond if they are reassured about welfare, as a veal market in the UK would stop the controversial export of live calves, and help find an outlet for dairy beef.
And radio 4's British Food and Farming Awards gave the top prize for Best Campaigner/Educator to Compassion in World Farming for their work in improving conditions for farmed animals.
All in all a good week for those committed to raising their animals in the best possible conditions.