Do you prefer big brands or locally-produced when food production is concerned?

You may, perhaps surprisingly, be showing your age if you choose the latter!

A survey of more than 3,300 European consumers has found that there is an increasing preference for locally-sourced produce, but dig deeper, and this preference may not be terribly long-lasting.

Research from market research company IRI has found that today’s younger consumers have a preference for bigger, more visible brands when buying food and other groceries, and care less about what is otherwise seen as a growing trend.

IRI’s latest European Shopper Survey finds that young millennials' “love affair” with FMCG brands is blooming, while smaller niche brands are being overlooked, and while there is an overall increasing demand across Europe for locally- or nationally-produced products, an underlying contrast emerges when segmenting by shopper age.

Shoppers who are 18-24 years of age would rather fill their cupboards with big-brand names that are seen as “cool” and more innovative - leaving local brands on the shelf.

And of course, as with much else, it is technology that is influencing this group. Younger millennials are reliant on digital content, with 61 percent of this group going online to research FMCG products and store information before making purchasing decisions.

It is the online visibility of product attributes, transparency, and the promotion of these qualities that helps to shape the younger generation’s spending choices, and not concerns about sustainability or support for local producers.

Conscious consumerism

Looking specifically at physical retail outlets, IRI has identified three future expectations for brick-and-mortar stores: delivering product with less plastic packaging, more local brands, and higher quality.

Close to 70 percent of the consumers taking part in the survey were found to favor products from companies that were seen to be transparent, respected the environment and that used recyclable packing and had low food miles.

“Conscious consumerism” is on the rise, IRI argues, and shoppers are more aware than ever of the ethical and environmental impact their purchases can have on the environment, of recyclable packaging and low food miles.

But what about those youngsters? While conscious consumerism may be still growing, unless retailers and food producers are able to influence younger generations - and given their connectivity, they would appear to be ready to be influenced, the trend towards local, far from being sustainable, may prove to be just another fad.