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Sustainability and the supermarket shopper: analysis of the promotors for and barriers to sustainable food purchasing behaviour - FO0401

The level of interest in sustainability, amongst the general public and within the media, is growing week by week, giving rise to initiatives from numerous stakeholders, public and private, to inform, educate and facilitate behaviour change at the level of individual households – customers and final consumers. The aim of this research is to provide Defra with a cost-effective mechanism for tracking actual food purchasing behaviour amongst supermarket shoppers and the drivers thereof. The modular design will enable Defra to monitor the impact of specific initiatives, from the public and private sectors, to encourage more sustainable food purchasing and consumption behaviour and explore the underlying motives for engagement and disengagement of different groups of consumers with the sustainability agenda. The results should enable Defra to identify potential areas for policy intervention, from regulation of manufacturers and retailers, in anticipation of market failure, to education of and information provision for consumers, to help bridge the gap that exists between sustainable consumption behaviour and actual consumption behaviour.
• Establish benchmarks of current food purchasing behaviour - the levels of household penetration, frequency of purchase, levels of expenditure and how these vary amongst different segments (lifestyle, lifestage, region) for a range of key products in the three major commodity sectors:
o Fruit and vegetables - this category of product covers a very wide range of potential impacts and therefore the possibility of driving improvement through changes in behaviour. Research questions could include consideration of seasonal products, imported versus home-grown, loose versus packaged, pre-processed to varying degrees;
o Meat and meat products - this category is known to have a comparatively high impact and is therefore likely to be included in future drives to reduce impacts through changes in behaviour. Research questions could include consideration of different types of meat, imported versus home produced, fresh versus frozen, ready meals versus meals cooked from ingredients, pre-packed meat versus meat purchased from the delicatessen counter;
o Dairy products - this category is known to have a comparatively high impact as products can be bulky and require refrigerated transport and storage. Research questions could consider imported versus home produced, local versus national, pre-packed dairy products (ie cheese) versus products purchased from the delicatessen;
o New product groups will be added as the project progresses and Defra identify specific issues or particular market initiatives that warrant scrutiny, in terms of how consumers respond (purchasing and consumption behaviour) and why
• Identify, through in-depth qualitative research, the key reasons (values, attitudes, perceptions, motives) for purchasing and non-purchasing behaviour with respect to different product groups, different consumer segments, different initiatives for stimulating behaviour change (e.g. packaging information, point of sale leaflets, promotional campaigns) and different channels of distribution (e.g. supermarkets, on-line, independent retailers and local/farmers’ markets).
Project Documents
• FRP - Final Report : FO0401 Final Report August 2011   (394k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2007

To: 2010

Cost: £99,000
Contractor / Funded Organisations
University of Kent
Food and Drink              
Food Chain              
Food manufacturing industry              
Fields of Study
Resource Efficient and Resilient Food Chain