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Consumer Research


Brits turn to ethical food

Brits turn to ethical food

Latest research from MINTEL finds the move towards buying ethical foods* is more than just a flash in the pan. British shoppers are set to spend over £2 billion on ethical foods this year alone, up by a massive 62% since 2002. People in Britain today are clearly moving towards more ethical lifestyles and are starting to realise that their actions all have consequences. As British shoppers increasingly look to shop with a clear conscience, MINTEL forecasts that the market will continue to grow for the foreseeable future.

In a country once dominated by a throw away culture, three-quarters (75%) of British now believe that people have a duty to recycle, up from 65% in 2002. Similarly, a third (34%) 'buy Fairtrade where available', up from just one in four (26%) in 2002 and two in five (40%) now 'buy free-range products whenever they can' (up from 33% in 2002). Where once price was all important, rising disposable income and a generally more affluent society has allowed people to start living up to their ethics and a third of adults now believe it is worth paying more for Fairtrade, organic and locally sourced foods.

"Ethical-food suppliers have traded on the fringes of the UK grocery market for many years and until recently only a few sectors, such as free-range eggs, had really established themselves. But now many more ethical products have entered the mainstream-foods sector, with leading suppliers and retailers becoming increasingly involved. In the present climate, many companies may be hoping to improve their profile by projecting a more ethical stance. But whatever their reasonings for choosing the ethical route, this movement is certainly a step in the right direction towards a more ethically-minded society. With these products becoming rapidly more widely available, the market is set to see substantial future growth," comments Julie Sloan, senior market analyst at MINTEL.

According to the Mintel Global New Products Database, there were some 70 ethical food products launched last year in the UK alone, up from just 25 in 2002. So far this year, the Mintel GNPD has recorded 53 new ethical food launches, with the beverages sector proving to be the most prolific producers of ethical new products.

Within the ethical foods market, Fairtrade is the real star performer in terms of sales growth. Fairtrade is set to be worth £230 million by the end of this year, experiencing some 265% growth between 2002 and 2006 alone. What is more, MINTEL predicts that Fairtrade will see a further 138% growth over the next five years, with sales crashing through the half a billion pound mark (£547 million) by 2011.

Barbara Crowther from the Fairtrade Foundation says; "Mintel's latest insights confirm what the Fairtrade Foundation is experiencing on a daily basis - rapidly growing consumer and business interest in Fairtrade and wider ethical food shopping. This shows no signs of abating, and is also moving beyond the food sector for us now. The challenge now is to consolidate long term Fairtrade commitments as part of mainstream consumer and business behaviour, in order to bring about tangible and sustainable change for millions more producers in developing countries."

While almost three in five adults (56%) believe that 'we are all responsible for what we choose to buy', many feel that the government, manufacturers and supermarkets should also shoulder at least some of the responsibility to buy ethically. Today, one in four (25%) adults believe it is down to the manufacturers to be more ethical, while a substantial number say it is the government's (28%) or the supermarkets' (24%) responsibility to introduce regulations.

* includes organic food, Fairtrade mark (clothes, food and other products), farmers markets, free range eggs and freedom food.


The full report is available from

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