Are farmers offering what customers want?

The ten top factors that would encourage consumers to buy more UK produce have been revealed in a new study by Barclays.

The research conducted by the bank found that two thirds of British consumers were willing to support UK farmers and that they would be willing to pay up to 17% extra on average for UK goods, which they felt were “better quality” than imports.

Despite this positive news, the research also revealed that there was a wide gap between what UK farmers are producing and what consumers desired. The study showed that the main factors influencing purchasing decisions for UK consumers were price and convenience. It found that two in five (40%) UK adults shopped for value over origin, followed by 31% making decisions based upon convenience.

However, only 5% of farmers believe there is a significant business opportunity to produce more low value produce, whereas over a quarter (27%) think growth could come from producing high value produce such as specialist and organic ranges.

Mark Suthern, Head of Agriculture at Barclays commented: “Our research shows that while support for UK produce exists, consumers are very cost conscious and when it comes to what drives choice of produce it is principally value and convenience. The findings suggest the market for higher cost or niche produce is small, yet only a small number of farmers identify farm gate produce of lower cost as part of their growth plan.

“This gap presents an opportunity for a quick and low cost producer mentality needed for future growth and the challenge will be production of quality produce in a price conscious market. With this is mind, perhaps now is the time for the industry to think differently, to ensure that UK farming remains competitive at family firm level and can compete with global players providing cheaper imported produce.”

The research also showed four out of five people (79%) would purchase more UK produce if it had ‘better taste or flavour’ than rival produce, whereas only a third of farmers (33%) think it would encourage more purchases.

Mark Suthern at Barclays continued: “Following the on-going difficulties that UK agriculture has experienced over the last few years, it has never been a more important time to support the growth of a vital sector of the UK economy.

“The UK has a global reputation for high-quality, high welfare farmed produce at competitive prices, and the evidence shows that UK consumers value the access they have to such domestically produced food, but must look beyond just price and convenience to support the industry. Continued improvements in labelling and traceability can help consumers make the choice in selecting UK produce.”

Using economic analysis to assess the opportunities for farmers, researchers found that the market for UK farmed produce could grow to £8.4billion by 2020 if more consumers chose domestic products. Based upon this estimate and the 17% price premium, which consumers said they would be willing to pay for UK produce, there could be an additional £4.7billion economic growth prospect for farming or £13.1billion in total over the next five years.