Press release

People want to buy healthy, local food, survey shows

Almost all households rated healthy foods as being the most important of these considerations.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Seven in every ten people say that buying sustainable fish is important, but only 30 per cent say that they buy sustainable fish, because a third of people aren’t sure how to choose sustainable fish products and are confused by labelling, according to research published by Defra today.

The figures show the need for retailers and producers to make sure labels are clear and effective, and to understand the difference between what consumers care about and what they actually feel able to buy in their weekly shop.

The survey looked at people’s attitudes to animal welfare, British seasonal produce, ethical produce, a healthy balanced diet, sustainably sourced fish and environmental sustainability by examining consumers’ purchase choices on products that illustrate those principles.

Almost all households rated healthy foods as being the most important of these considerations with 80 per cent of people rating it as the most important factor affecting their buying decisions. 

While people rated buying British seasonal produce and whether their food was produced ethically as the least important choices on the list, nearly two thirds of people still considered these to be important considerations when buying food with most shoppers saying they actively seek to buy healthy foods (82 per cent) and British seasonal produce (72 per cent).

The figures indicate that people’s preferences don’t always match what they ultimately buy, with price being a major factor in many people’s buying decisions. 

When it comes to seasonal fruit and vegetables, a third of people do not look to buy it because they think it is too expensive, and 40 per cent say they want a wider choice of foods.  However, of those people who do look to buy seasonal fruit and vegetables almost half of them think seasonal food tastes better and two thirds prefer to buy according to the season, with 30 per cent saying they want to support British farmers.

Food Minister Jim Paice said:

“While price is understandably important, this survey confirms that lots of other factors like concerns about healthy eating and where food comes from influence how people fill their shopping basket.

“One of Defra’s core aims is to support British farmers so they can continue to deliver the best produce sustainably, and it’s clear this is what consumers want too.”

Findings from the 12-month research project into food purchases show that:

  • more than two thirds of people consider buying British produce important and almost three quarters look to buy British fruit and vegetables;
  • more than three quarters of people think animal welfare is important but only two thirds seek out free range eggs and only half try to buy free range chicken;
  • 70 per cent of people say buying sustainable fish is important but only 30 per cent say that they do so;
  • almost two thirds of people say that buying ethical products is important, and 30 per cent seek out Fairtrade tea and coffee; and
  • the same number of people who think it’s important to buy healthy produce say they do so - 80 per cent of people.

Note to editors:

The full research can be found at

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Published 6 April 2011