Horse meat in the food supply – one year on

Horse meat in the food supply – one year on

Last year’s discovery of unlicensed horse meat in supermarket products, one of the most widely-publicised food-supply incidents in recent years, continues to have an impact on many British consumers, but there are signs of consumer confidence recovering, according to a survey by Ipos MORI.

The survey reveals almost all adults in the UK (95%) remember the horse meat incident, but only 31% of British adults have changed the way they buy or choose food in the last 12 months.

Lasting impact on consumers’ buying behaviour

A year on from when the incident was first reported, three out of ten adults (31%) cite that the horse meat incident impacted the way they chose and buy food.  Of those who remember the incident, 10% claim to have reduced their purchase of processed meat, 8% purchase fewer ready-made meals, 7% buy more meat from high-street butchers and 7% spend more time reading labels on food products before purchasing.

Memories of the incident

The majority of people surveyed by Ipsos MORI recalled that horse meat was found in frozen food, particularly ‘frozen burgers’ (69%) and ‘frozen ready meals’ (65%). Other products mentioned to include horse meat are mince (38%), pies and pasties (37%), fresh ready meals (31%) and fresh burgers (26%).

Is consumer confidence affected?

Three out of every four adults polled by Ipsos MORI were able to cite at least one concern or issue emanating from the horsemeat incident.  ‘Betrayal of trust’ was the most frequently mentioned concern (53%), followed by ‘lack of control’ (48%) and ‘lack of answers/accountability’ (34%).

When asked what caused the incident, more than half (51%) mentioned ‘regulators did not monitor the industry carefully’ (51%).  40% believe that ‘suppliers misled retailers to boost profits’, and 39% believe ‘suppliers cut corners under pricing pressure from supermarkets’.

Changing perceptions of retailers and food manufacturers

Tesco’s image was the most affected by the horse meat incident: 20% of adults now perceive the retailer less favourably. The next most affected is Iceland (14% have a less favourable opinion).

Among manufacturer brands, Findus’ reputation has been particularly affected and is now perceived less favourably by 21% of adults. This rises to 29% among those aged 25-24. 11% of consumers now perceive Birds Eye and Rustlers less favourably.

Stephen Yap, head of Ipsos MarketQuest, commented: “The frozen-food industry has been particularly badly hit, Tesco and Iceland are most closely associated with the scandal and their reputations have yet to make a full recovery.  However, 26% of the British public are buying cheaper food than they were a year ago, which may suggest that price is still a central factor in food choices.”

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