Research published by Barclays reveals how British consumers have changed their grocery shopping habits as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. One quarter of UK consumers now claim to buy produce in local shops and farm stores, instead of supermarket-only purchasing, reports The Financial. Over 7 million consumers who had never visited a farm shop prior to the pandemic now visit regularly. In addition, 63 per cent of Brits claim they will be buying more home-grown produce as a result of the pandemic and Brexit.
The research uncovers an appetite for sustainably sourced foods, with just under half looking to purchase seasonal produce, an indication that consumers recognise their role in helping the sector become carbon neutral. Additionally, just over half believe grocery shopping from local stores and farm shops is better for the environment, and 45 per cent think purchasing from these outlets helps them to better understand where their produce has come from. Around two thirds of farmers plan to sell and process at least some of their produce locally within the next three years.
British consumers are keen to understand how they can further reduce their carbon footprint, with 56 per cent wanting to support farmers more so the industry can become carbon neutral. Nearly half of those surveyed suggest they would like to see a dedicated aisle in shops for sustainably sourced foods, and 61 per cent think that shops need to provide better information on how shoppers can improve their carbon footprint. This would be hugely helpful for the industry’s ambitions, as 45 per cent of respondents didn’t know if it was possible to buy carbon neutral foods.
Farm shops in the UK have recorded a surge in sales during recent months. According to research published by the Farm Retail Association (FRA), the appeal of these outlets is that they provide reliable and affordable access to abundant locally sourced fresh seasonal produce. Of the farm retailers surveyed by the FRA, 92% reported a significant rise in new customers since the lockdown began. Around 79% stated that they had introduced click-and-collect services during the coronavirus pandemic, including completely contactless drive-through channels, while 67% reported having introduced home delivery services. Indeed, the country’s farm shops have processed an estimated 1.4 million home delivery or collection orders since the lockdown measures were introduced.
The FRA stresses that farm shops provide calm environments with easy-to-follow social distancing measures that allow shoppers to feel safe, whilst also allowing communities to benefit from new services that were not previously available. The UK’s network of farm shops is estimated to have a combined turnover in excess of £1.5bn.
FRA chairman Rob Copley said: “The last couple of months have clearly shown that farm retailers can react nimbly to customer demands because of their size, independence and direct relationships with local farmers. They have also shown that they are proactive, supportive members of their local communities. We have members who prepare and deliver ready meals to local community groups that support the most vulnerable members of society. Others are donating produce to local school hubs, frontline NHS staff and other key workers.”
The farm shops will now be hoping that these consumption patterns become long-term habits as the lockdown measures begin to ease.