Moves by UK grocers The Co-op and Waitrose to launch Best of British sections on their websites reaffirms their support for British farmers and appeals to shoppers looking for homegrown produce.

Focusing on British food in Olympic year is not a bad idea either as it will also tap into a UK consumer’s sense of national pride during the games.

In a bid to cater to a growing consumer interest in locally-sourced products, especially in poultry and meats, The Co-op has launched a new Best of British range on its website, offering same-day delivery for 100% British meat, poultry, fruit and veg, and dairy produce.

Post-pandemic, the popularity of online grocery shopping remains undiminished and continues to grow. According to a survey carried out by GlobalData in the final quarter of 2023, one-quarter of UK consumers claim they will continue to purchase groceries online over the next three months. Some 17% report they will buy online more frequently and 11% say they will start to use the services.

Four years after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, we have seen a shift in consumer behaviour with regard to online grocery shopping. More than half (56%) of UK consumers say they will buy groceries online over the next three months.

Online grocery shopping is now ubiquitous, with only 5% of consumers reporting plans to stop this activity over the next three months. Therefore, using online as the lead communication vehicle to promote Best of British will appeal to The Co-op’s existing online customer base and attract those shoppers who value sustainability.

One of the key benefits of the campaign is the support supermarkets are offering local farmers by promoting locally sourced food and beverages, which will attract new consumers who prioritise the environment, reducing carbon emissions and animal welfare in their purchasing decisions.

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The pressures on consumer spending can also drives interest in locally produced food. Waitrose has also launched a similar section on its website, promoting its 100% British meat, eggs, and milk range, with a commitment to expand the range if the launch is successful. The launch is timely as more consumers are recognising that buying locally sourced produce can help them save money.

According to GlobalData survey in the third quarter of 2023, more than half (52%) of UK consumers strongly/somewhat agreed with the statement: “I prefer buying local products because they are cheaper than imported ones.”

The Q4 survey showed that one in three UK consumers reported they were spending more on grocery shopping due to increased prices than in the previous three months and 27% said they are cutting back on grocery shopping due to the cost-of-living crisis.

Price will continue to play a pivotal role in purchase decisions until the economic outlook improves. Other factors such as product quality and personal preferences based on a consumer’s personal values, are also important influences on purchasing behavior, especially for staple food categories like meat and dairy. Local produce has the advantage of a shorter, more efficient, and cheaper supply chain, and retailers can therefore pass any benefits of reduced costs onto their customers.

In a timely intervention, the UK government has announced plans for an eight-week consultation to make food labeling clearer and fairer, to “ensure British farmers’ products get the recognition they deserve” and help “consumers make decisions that align with their values”.

The consultation will look at how to ensure greater transparency around country-of-origin and the methods of production, including how and where this information is displayed and what products should be included in the final recommendations.

Many UK consumers, who prefer locally sourced meat over imported, already associate British meat and poultry with higher quality production values, which they also believe contributes to a better-tasting product than imported meat. Some consumers also believe that UK farmers have to adhere to stricter animal welfare standards than those observed in other countries. For this reason, UK supermarkets and convenience retailers adding a “Best of British” section on their websites is a win-win for both their customers and local suppliers.

Customers can use the information to easily find and buy locally sourced products, and local suppliers can benefit from increased visibility and sales. The increasing focus of consumers, retailers and the government on locally produced products should raise the interest of those retailers who have not yet launched a range of locally sourced produce, as they could risk missing an opportunity.

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