Animal welfare tops ethical concerns for UK consumers

When it comes to ethical claims made by food and drink companies, animal welfare tops the list for UK consumers, beating environmental concerns.

When it comes to ethical claims made by food and drink companies, animal welfare tops the list for U.K. consumers, beating environmental concerns. In a study of 1,500 consumers, 74 percent said that meat coming from animals which are looked after well is among the top issues that make a food company ethical. 

While there is an expectation among a majority of U.K. consumers that food companies should act ethically, with almost three quarters agreeing they expect food products to meet adequate ethical standards without having to pay more for them, it seems consumers are not afraid to boycott brands that do not act ethically. Fifty-two percent of consumers said they would stop buying products from a company if they found out it was acting unethically. 

The survey was carried out by Mintel, and its senior food analyst Richard Ford commented: “Ethics is becoming ever more ingrained into food and drink operators’ sourcing politics, but is a complex area which is important to get right. That so many consumers would stop buying from a company acting unethically highlight that operators must ensure their operating standards are not just legally, but also ethically robust, or risk boycotts and reputational damage. Social media means that any accusation of unethical practice can spread fast.” 

Happy shoppers

It seems there is a feel good factor when buying ethical food products. While one in four consumer agree that where they shop for groceries depends on the range of ethical food products available, over two in five say that buying ethical groceries makes them feel good about themselves. 

But Mintel’s research found that there are some limitations for consumers when it comes to purchasing ethical food products. Half of those surveyed said they would only pay for ethical products if they understood clearly where the extra money went and 52 percent said that they found information about which foods are ethical confusing.

“Not only do consumers expect good ethical practices from operators, they also expect to be informed and reassured over why they’re paying extra and where the money is going. Cost remains a key barrier for many buying into ethical food and drink products,” Ford said. 

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