Consumers care about animal welfare

Animal welfare tops consumers’ list of issues which improve a food company’s ethical standing.

New research from Mintel finds three quarters (74%) of people say that meat coming from animals which are looked after well is among the top issues that make a food company ethical, followed by a company that guarantees the ingredients used in its products are responsibly sourced (60%) and a company that guarantees good worker welfare (57%).

The study of 1,500 UK consumers finds that concerns over animal welfare top the list, trumping environmental concerns and concerns over tax avoidance.

Consumers expect food companies should act ethically, with almost three quarters (72%) agreeing they expect food products to meet adequate ethical standards without having to pay more for them. Half (52%) of consumers say they would stop buying products from a company if they found out it was acting unethically.

Falling lower down the list for consumers is a company that guarantees to improve the environment (42%), a company that guarantees to limit its carbon footprint (32%) and a company that guarantees it has not avoided payment of its taxes (30%).

‘Ethics is becoming ever more ingrained into food and drink operators’ sourcing policies but it is a complex area which is important to get right,’ said Richard Ford, senior food analyst at Mintel.

But Mintel’s research finds that there are some limitations for consumers when it comes to purchasing ethical food products. Half (52%) say they would only pay more for ethical products if they understood clearly where the extra money went and 52% say they find information about which foods are ethical confusing.

Michael Bennett of Pelican’s specialist food and drink PR team said: ‘Ethical standards are increasing an area where food companies reputations can be tarnished. The fact that so many consumers would stop buying from a company acting unethically highlights that operators must ensure their operating standards are not just legally, but also ethically robust. The power of social media means that reputational damage can quickly affect the reputation of your brand before you have the opportunity to respond. A comprehensive crisis communications plan is vital in order to prepare for this eventuality.’

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