More Irish shoppers choosing local food and drink since pandemic

More Irish shoppers choosing local food and drink since pandemic

Nine in 10 shoppers are actively choosing locally produced food and drinks, according to a new survey by The Foundation.

The research reveals that 93% of consumers now actively choose to buy local food and drink brands, with almost one in three (27%) sasying they ‘always’ now choose local.

Conducted in September 2021 with shoppers across Ireland and Northern Ireland, the research by branding and marketing agency The Foundation and FN Research was commissioned to examine the importance of local food and drink across the island of Ireland, and how COVID-19 has impacted on shopping habits.

The research reveals that 55% of shoppers are buying more local products compared to pre-pandemic, and 86% would like a quick way to identify local food and drink producers.

When asked why they choose to buy local, supporting the economy is a core motivator, with 81% of respondents in ROI and 76% of Northern Irish respondents stating this as their top reason. Other key motivators were stated as ‘better quality’ (47%) and traceability (47%).

The study also discovered that there’s shopper demand for clear origin labelling, with 86% of consumers saying they would value a quick and easy way to identify local food and drink when shopping. A high majority of respondents (71%) said that they can’t always find local brands when shopping.

Increase in local

Brendan Gallen, Strategy Director of The Foundation, said: “We know that consumers want to buy local – this has been a trend for some years. However, our research suggests that this has significantly increased since pre-pandemic times with over 1 in 2 people now buying ‘more’ local products.

“An overwhelming majority of shoppers are now actively choosing to support local brands, and for brands here, this is a huge opportunity.”

Erin Nixon, Client Services Director with The Foundation said: “‘Supporting local is where food and drink brands here have the upper hand on international names. It’s vital that Irish and Northern Irish producers differentiate their offering by not only communicating the quality of their products, but to dial up their local credentials.

“For retailers, there’s also a win in increasing shelf space and the visibility of local producers in-store. The demand is there – consumers are actively choosing to shop local.”

 The research also discovered that ‘purpose’ is now an important factor when it comes to choice. 8 in 10 (79%) of consumers support local food and drink brands who are active in their community with the same number citing ‘local heritage’ as an important factor. For the 18-24 age group, their interest in food and drink selection spikes when it comes to brands being involved in the community.

Sense of purpose

 Fiona Norman, Founder of FN Research said: “Purpose and sustainability have become important factors over the past five years. This is now particularly prominent when it comes to young shoppers who are actively making decisions based on a brand’s values and its involvement in society. Supporting this, our research found that 70% said that the food miles associated with a product was an important factor when choosing food and drink products.”

 The research also found more than half of respondents visited food and drink websites from time to time (55%) and 48% of respondents look up food and drink brands online, underpinning the need for local producers to tell their story and build a wider narrative around their marketing.

Fiona said: “Young shoppers are more curious by nature and are looking for rich information on a brand’s origin, its carbon footprint and how it contributes to communities. It’s important for brands to consider this messaging as young shoppers in particular move on very quickly and choose elsewhere if this information isn’t easily located.” 

Brendan Gallen from The Foundation said: “With consumers making more considered choices when it comes to food and drink products, companies’ brand stories are more important than ever before. Ensuring a clear, local and consistent brand story that lives both on and offline is essential to helping businesses avail of this opportunity and in creating a strong affinity with shoppers.”

 Almost 500 consumers across Northern Ireland and Ireland participated in the online survey which was conducted in September 2021.

Caption: Erin Nixon and Brendan Gallen at the launch of Irish food drink producers research