The overall aim of the project is to assess consumer understanding of, and reactions to, changing food prices and food security, and their expectations of Government, and to examine the feasibility of developing potential indicators of consumer confidence in the food system. This research will focus at the consumer level, on perceptions, and behaviours in relation to the key components of food security at household level: access (where and how people obtain food), affordability (experience of, and practices in relation to, changes in food prices) and availability (what is bought), as well consumers’ sense of food security (confidence in the food system; intended and actual changes in practice in the relatively short term.)
The specific project objectives are as follows:
1) Examine consumer understandings of the concept of ‘food security’.
2) Explore the extent to which the component elements of ‘food security’ influence household food purchasing and consumption decisions.
3) Gain insights into consumer experiences of food price changes and impacts of the economic downturn over the past two years.
4) Based on outcomes from the above research, examine the feasibility of developing one or more potential indicators of consumer confidence in food security and in the wider food system.
5) Explore possibilities of using Defra Family Food survey data (2002 to 2007) to assess the cost of a healthy diet.
6) Explore possibilities of using Defra Family Food survey data (2002 to 2007) to examine patterns in the diets of those at risk of social exclusion.
7) Make comparisons between Defra Family Food survey data (2002 to 2007) and data for 2008 to explore whether the economic downturn has affected food purchases and thereby the diet of different social groups.
There are three main phases to the study covering Objectives 1-4:
• A literature trawl primarily aimed at informing the design and interpretation of the consumer survey and workshops.
• A rapid quantitative survey administered online to identify trends in consumer behaviour in relation to the research questions, and investigate variations in relation to different environmental behaviours segments.
• A series of deliberative workshops to develop detailed and in-depth understanding of consumer perceptions and behaviours, in relation to socio-economic group, location, and life stage.
The research questions address a fast moving contemporary topic. It is likely that consumer thinking will be shaped and changed by media representation and discussion of relevant issues. This will be explored in the deliberative workshops, rather than in a literature review. Review of media presentation is outside the scope of the project.
Objectives 5 -7 constitute an exploratory analysis of data from the Defra Family Food survey and are not related directly to Objectives 1-4. The purpose of this work is to assess the feasibility of using Family Food Survey data to assess and compare the food purchases (diets) of different groups of households over time and to explore the feasibility of interpreting them in terms of a ‘healthy diet’.
The results of the study will be presented at a stakeholder workshop at the end of the project and feedback from this workshop will be used to refine the Final Report.