Consumers demand more food information

By Nicholas Robinson

- Last updated on GMT

FSA chief scientific adviser Guy Poppy
FSA chief scientific adviser Guy Poppy

Related tags Food standards agency Food

Your customers want to know more about their food than ever before, leading consumer research released by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has revealed.

The research, which was unveiled today (18 February) at the FSA's #OurFoodFuture summit, highlighted four key themes consumers believed were important about the food they eat.

It contradicts the opinion of many commentators in the trade that customers are disengaged with the term 'locally sourced'.

During recent years, consumers have built a better understanding of their food and the processes used to produce it, explained the FSA's chief scientific adviser Guy Poppy at the summit.

What they were eating

There was a feeling among the 1,300 consumers asked by the FSA that there was the strong presence of a food safety body (the FSA) protecting them and ensuring the food they ate was safe, but a lack of clarity about what they were eating, he explained.

"There was less certainty about what could be done about transparency and people having the information to make the decisions to suit them in terms of health and nutrition," said Poppy.

Who should do what for the future of food?

"Food comes here (to the UK) from 183 countries and some products contain ingredients from 16 different countries. Climate change and changing [societal] demographics all play a part in the future of our food.

"This is something the consumers are beginning to raise [as concerns]."

The research had revealed the majority of those asked by the FSA also felt the convenience of food was beginning to concern them.

Such easy access to ready-made food had caused a "disconnect" between them and where their food came from, he added.

Another concern

Price of fresh food in the future was another concern for those asked by the FSA. They worried that a premium would be charged for fresh and whole food, which would create a two-class society, where those who could afford to would eat fresh and healthy food and those that could not would have no other option but to eat processed food.

Market forces – the prices of commodities such as grains, meat and dairy – dictating what consumers eat also caused concern among the panel, he said.

"Many people think that market forces are shaping a lot of this (what they eat) and those people are saying that, with the food system, they would like it to be not just market-led.

"They want all food businesses and regulators to not only have safety and quality standards in mind, but more oversight of the food system and what [types of foods] people are being exposed to."