/ Food & Drink, Sustainability

What’s your biggest priority when you buy food?

A woman shopping at a fish counter

Our new Future of Food report highlights the top consumer priorities when shopping for food. Prices, safety, convenience or taste Рwhat’s your biggest priority when you’re doing your weekly shop?

Last month we published research in the wake of the horsemeat scare that showed trust in the food industry had dropped by almost a quarter.

We called on the government to tighten up food safety legislation, improve surveillance and increase enforcement following the horsemeat crisis. Now the government has announced a review to establish exactly what went wrong.

Our Future of Food report again shows how important it is to consumers that the government, and the food industry, take action to ensure that we all have confidence in the food we buy.

Finding the nation’s food shopping priorities

As part of our research, we spoke to people up and down the country, asking them what they think about the future of our food.

Our findings reveal that price, quality and taste are the most important things to over nine in 10 of us when we are shopping for food. The majority of us also want more information on the quality of ingredients used, food safety standards and where our food is produced. And we think the government and the food industry are responsible for providing this.

Rebuilding food confidence

The priority for me when I go shopping is convenience. But I’d like to be able to buy safe, healthy and sustainable food easily. To do this, I need to have more¬†information available.

I don‚Äôt eat meat, but if I did I should imagine I’d like to know that my corned beef is what it says on the tin. As it is, I would like to know if my jar of Italian pasta sauce actually contains tomatoes from¬†Italy, or whether the ‚ÄėItalian‚Äô part of my sauce is just a marketing gimmick.

And I want to be absolutely sure that my food is safe to eat. The horsemeat scandal has dented my confidence. It made me realise how long the supply chain¬†is for some processed foods and has caused me to think differently about the food I buy. I now try to buy food that’s been produced locally, so that I can be as sure as possible it contains what it says it does.

My thinking is that with locally produced fare, there’s less chance that someone along the supply chain¬†has put something¬†in¬†it that I don‚Äôt want to eat.

Focus on food strategy

Above all, I’d like a clear message from the government and the food¬†industry that they have consumers‚Äô safety and need for¬†information at the heart of everything they do. To do this, there needs to be a clear food strategy that ensures we can produce food that is safe, sustainable, healthy and affordable. It also needs to make sure the food we buy is correctly labelled, so we can make¬†informed decisions.

What are your priorities when you do your weekly shop? What changes would you like to see to help you make the choices you want to make when you shop for food?


My top priorities are to buy food that represents a reasonably healthy diet and to try to avoid buying much processed convenience foods. I never buy sausages, burgers or mince because meat is expensive and at more risk of adulteration or can contain a lot of fat. I read nutrition labels at home and decide whether or not to buy the same product in future.

I prefer to buy UK products, particularly local fruit and veg, and anything marked Fairtrade.

diane says:
27 April 2013

I agree with wavechange but my main priority is cruelty and GM-free. We don’t eat much meat now (once a week at most) but ensure it is to the highest animal welfare standards (usually locally sourced). Unfortunately some supermarkets (including the Co-op) have abandoned their GM-free pledge. I’ll just stop buying those products from them, then, and buy GM-free elsewhere.

I would like to buy cruelty-free meat, Diane, but unfortunately our supermarkets do not do a good job in helping us choose. I am not sure I would trust the information either. ‘Free-range’ eggs represent better standards than the alternative, but it is still not good.

I think we may have lost the battle against GM-food, and I believe that food can be sold as GM-free if it contains up to 1% GM content. It’s probably not a risk to humans but goodness knows what effect the growing of GM crops is causing to the environment.

Hannah says:
27 April 2013

Mainly it’s quality at a reasonable price of course, I’m not saying unhealthy neither.
When it comes to food it has to look nice smells nice and taste nice! It’s something I don’t like to cut corners with, I don’t drink nor smoke and I don’t really go out, so it’s my only luxury ūüôā

Food must firstly be fresh and of good quality. It must also taste good or else it will not be bought a second time. Price is really secondary to quality but saying that I do not pay excessive amounts for organic food. I am wary of GM foods as I do not wish to grow unwanted protrusions on inside my body. I don’t know if there is such a thing as cruelty free meat, but I steer clear of kosher and halal meats as their method of killing did not seem particularly ‘humane’ when I saw it in a documentary years ago. If the cruelty aspect worried me greatly, I would become a vegetarian.

Sophie Gilbert says:
1 May 2013

I try to buy as “healthy” food as I can, as much as the purse allows, eg non-GM, organic, not processed, and also relatively cruelty-free (eg “free range” at least), and environmentally/human friendly (fair trade, from sustainable sources). The criteria are numerous and not always straight forward, so I don’t succeed all the time. One day (hope springs eternal, and without it we wouldn’t continue the fight, would we?), I will be able to shop without having to think too much because GM, non-organic, battery, exploitative and damaging products will have been banned altogether by our esteemed powers that be…