Shoppers Will Pay More For Ethical Food: Survey

Grocery shoppers are looking more closely ethical food claims for practical as well as altruistic reasons, according to a recent national survey by San Francisco Bay area-based strategic marketing communications firm Context Marketing. The survey found that 70 percent of respondents believe ethically produced food is better for the environment, 60 percent believe it’s healthier and 58 percent believe it’s safer to eat. Perhaps most significantly, however, seven out of 10 people polled said they would pay more for ethically produced foods.

“Consumers are paying more attention to ethical brand claims as a way to identify foods that are of higher quality as well as to support brands they see acting in a socially responsible way,” said Context Marketing principal Bob Kenney, who noted that “ethical” is a broad term when consumers apply it to food purchases. According to Kenney, when asked to explain what they mean by “ethical food,” over 90 percent of respondents identified three main qualities: protects the environment, meets high quality and safety standards, and treats farm animals humanely.

The survey found that 69 percent of respondents said they would pay more for food produced to higher ethical standards. Of this total, 57 percent are willing to pay up to a 10 percent premium for ethical food, and 12 percent said they would pay even more. Many respondents also said they’re more loyal to food brands they view as ethically produced, and are more likely to recommend them to others.

Among the survey’s further findings was that consumers appear to be heeding advocates of eating locally: 66 of respondents agreed that locally produced food is always preferable, and 42 percent think that locally produced food is safer to eat.

Trust is important when it comes to ethical brands, according to the survey. While consumers are more attentive to ethical brand claims, they’re also growing more wary, with 76 percent saying they’ve become skeptical about some ethical food claims because they don’ always mean what they imply. When consumers are confident that a food is ethically produced, however, 65 percent said they’re more willing to believe other quality claims made by the brand.

The research additionally discovered that while there’s broad consensus on the importance of ethical foods among men and women in all age groups, women and younger adults are more responsive to a range of ethical claims.

“Ethical Food — The Ethical Claims That Matter Most To Food Shoppers” reports the results of a January 2010 national survey conducted among 600 adults between the ages of 20 and 64, equally representing women and men living in major U.S. markets. For a copy of the research report, visit
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