Horsemeat scandal - one year on

A year on from horsegate, data shows that while reactions are mixed, the general picture in terms of consumer confidence is positive.

Data analysts Kantar Worldpanel reported that, between December 2012 and December 2013, spend on the products most associated with the scandal – frozen burgers, frozen ready meals and frozen beef – was down 1%, 6% and 11% respectively. However, a Kantar poll also showed that, one year on, 64% of people will not change their shopping habits due to the scandal, up from 47% in January 2013.

Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC) - Meat Promotion Wales, also reported that the volume of meat sold dropped 2% in 2013. However, the amount of money spent on meat increased.

John Richards, HCC’s industry information officer, said: “Despite the squeeze on household budgets the amount spent by customers actually rose by 3%, driven by higher prices in the shops.

“Higher prices partly reflect an increased retailer focus on sourcing UK product since the horsemeat scandal which broke in February 2013.”

A recent survey from MTJ’s sister magazine, The Grocer, indicated that consumer confidence has not been hurt too badly. The survey, run with Ipsos MORI, showed that 69% of people said the horsemeat incident did not have any permanent impact on they way they chose to buy their food. However 10% did say they now buy less processed meat.

Market research firm Marketing Sciences also ran a survey which showed that 95% of people are aware of the scandal as a whole, up from 90% at the time. But fewer people are still likely to avoid products that were involved in the scandal - down to 28% from 50% at the time.

Scars are clearly still showing, though. A Populus and Hanover Communications survey reported that 42% of people said they worry more about the quality of food than they did before the horsemeat scandal. Confidence will need more repairing and supply chain traceability clearly needs improvement, since 56% of people think further scandals similar to horsemeat will happen in the future.

Stephen Rossides, director of the British Meat Processors Association said he was pleased with the consumer reaction, but that there was a lot of work to do on preventing such issues in the future. He said: “Frozen beef and and ready meals sales are down, which is obviously a legacy. Generally I think the industry has held up very well, though. What remains is the issue of how to tackle food crime. We don’t know the scale of of the issue – it’s difficult to identify. Public onfidence in food is actually quite robust, but dealing with the issue is much more complex. It’s not just a UK problem, it’s a European and even a world problem. The industry and government need to work how to allocate resources to the issue.

“The history of such events teaches us that people get over these things because they have to eat. But you cannot push people too hard. It’s not a reason for complacency, the issues need to be addressed.”  


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