Beware consumer research on horsemeat, says professor

Consumers do not care about the horsemeat scandal as much as the industry does, a professor of food marketing and supply chain management told meat bosses.

Speaking at the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers’ (AIMS’) annual conference in Wales at the weekend, Professor Andrew Fearne from the University of Kent claimed consumers were nowhere near as obsessed with the scandal as the meat industry was and still is.

He said what consumers say and do did not add-up and research suggesting consumers are cautious about where their food comes from was not a fair representation of their actions. “The industry is obsessed with it and quite rightly so – they own the brands that are being destroyed,” he added.

“Market research is incredibly dangerous: don’t believe what people say they do is actually what they are doing,” he said and criticised the consumer research figures that came out following the horsemeat scandal. According to Fearne, consumers may say they are concerned about sourcing local or ethically, but when it comes to their shopping bill falling every week “it’s all me, me, me”.

However, speaking at an IGD Convention today, Joanne Denney-Finch, chief executive of the consumer research and education charity, said IGD research had shown 56% of shoppers wanted to know more about where their food came from, up from 34% in 2011.

“The food and consumer goods industry has never been under more scrutiny, We need a revolution in transparency and traceability to build trust to higher levels than before the horsemeat contamination incident earlier this year.”

Denney-Finch spoke to more than 650 industry leaders in London today and said, although things were “picking up”, the industry was under more scrutiny than ever.

“It’s vital that we now lead a revolution in transparency and traceability. It won’t be easy and it will take time, but it’s the biggest opportunity of a generation. We have a great opportunity to close that gap. And people’s expectations are already high. Eight in 10 shoppers believe that food and grocery companies should know where every single ingredient comes from.”

Whenever the industry is transparent, it shows it is confident, she said and added: “What we sell has never been safer, more reliable, better quality or better value. I’ve visited hundreds of farms, factories, distribution centres and stores around the world, so I know first-hand. The people and companies with integrity will prevail.”


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