30.9.11 Aussies Don’t Care Where Food Comes From as Long as It’s Cheap

Aussie food producers still reeling from the effects of floods, drought and pestilence now have another big headache as consumers tighten their belts and the dollar stays high.

A new nationwide poll has revealed eight in 10 Australian grocery buyers aged 18 to 64 think price is more or just as important as country of origin when purchasing food and a staggering 60% hardly ever check to see where their food comes from.

The results, revealed in the latest round of survey series Crossman Insights, initiated by Sydney-based public relations consultancy Crossman Communications using the Newspoll Online Omnibus, found that around half of Australian grocery buyers (47%) don’t care where food comes from as long as it is good quality and reasonably priced and 56% think imported food keeps Australian prices competitive.

Crossman Communications Managing Director, Jackie Crossman, said that while it’s understandable that consumers are looking to save cash wherever they can, the findings will dishearten farmers and local food manufacturers who are already doing it tough in the difficult retail environment.

“Australia produces some of the best quality food in the world and our growers and manufacturers need our support. If we favour cheap imported food over home grown produce we will jeopardise even more Australian livelihoods and jobs in the agriculture, horticulture and manufacturing sectors,” Ms Crossman said.

The Newspoll survey of more than 1000 Australian grocery buyers found that New Zealand food producers are likely to be the biggest winners in the battle for the Australian dinner plate with an overwhelming 96% of respondents confident in food coming from our nearest neighbour, including a significant 60% who are very confident.

The UK and France are also trusted suppliers with 91% and 87% support respectively, but the majority of consumers are suspicious of food from India (62%), Mexico (57%), China (56%), Thailand (55%) and Chile (53%).

Ms Crossman said with New Zealand’s clean, green image and reputation for producing quality food a clear winner with Australian consumers, local industries will need to find ways to effectively compete as more and more products cross the Tasman.

“The threat from Asian countries is much less significant though Australians could easily get turned on to food from South America – in particular Chile which is known for top quality produce – if there was a major education push from that market,” Ms Crossman said.

“In this challenging environment, where household costs are rising and consumers are intent on snapping up bargains either online or in the shops, loyalty goes out the window,” she said.

Around half of Australian grocery buyers (53%) would like to see the Federal Government providing protection to food manufacturers even if it increases the price of all foods however Crossman noted that convincing the powers that be of this could be hard when the vast majority of consumers are voting with their wallets and not even bothering to look at the country of origin.

Crossman Insights is a survey series designed to capture the thoughts and mood of heartland Australia, providing insights into issues of the moment or answers to questions we’ve always pondered but never really asked.