Latest Government studies show that more than 70 per cent of consumers think that buying food that is seasonal and British is important, even more claiming they actively seek out UK produced fruit and vegetables when doing grocery shopping.
Almost all households said they felt buying healthy food was top of their considerations, with 80 per cent of people rating it as the most important factor affecting their buying decisions.
However the figures also indicated that people’s preferences don’t always match what they ultimately buy, price being a major factor in many people’s decisions.
For example more than three quarters of people said that they think animal welfare is important, but only 66 per cent said they seek out free range eggs and only half attempted to buy free range chicken.
And while people rated buying British seasonal produce and whether their food was produced ethically as the least important choices on the list, nearly two- thirds of people still considered these to be important considerations when buying food.
Some 82 per cent of shoppers said they were actively seeking to buy healthy foods while 72 per cent said they wanted to buy British seasonal produce.
There appeared to be further gaps between intent and actual purchasing habits elsewhere, with a total of seven in every 10 people saying they thought buying fish from sustainable sources was important, but only 30 per cent say that they actually buy sustainable fish.
Much of the confusion appeared to come from the fact that one in three people felt confused by labelling. The Department of the Environment, Food and Rural affairs (DEFRA) said its figures showed “the need for retailers and producers to make sure labels are clear and effective, and to understand the difference between what consumers care about and what they actually feel able to buy in their weekly shop”.
The survey was organised to examine people’s attitudes to animal welfare, British seasonal produce, ethical produce, a healthy balanced diet, sustainably sourced fish and environmental sustainability. It examined consumers’ purchase choices on products that illustrate those principles and took 12 months to prepare.
Agriculture Minister Jim Paice said: “While price is understandably important, this survey confirms that lots of other factors like concerns about healthy eating and where food comes from influence how people fill their shopping basket.
“One of DEFRA’s core aims is to support British farmers so they can continue to deliver the best produce sustainably, and it’s clear this is what consumers want too.”
The study also showed that when it comes to seasonal fruit and vegetables, a third of people do not look to buy it because they think it is too expensive, and 40 per cent say they want a wider choice of foods.
However, of those people who do look to buy seasonal fruit and vegetables almost half of them think seasonal food tastes better and two-thirds prefer to buy according to the season, with 30 per cent saying they want to support British farmers.
In addition around two-thirds of people said that buying ethical products was important to them, with around 30 per cent seeking out Fairtrade tea and coffee on their retailer’s shelves.
The findings will be of some comfort to Britain’s farmers who are currently battling with vast increases in their overheads, particularly when it comes to buying fuel and animal feed.