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Food firms cash in as UK turns ethical

By Anthony Fletcher , 12-Oct-2006

The move towards buying ethical foods is more than just a flash in the pan, according to new research.

Market analyst Mintel forecasts that UK shoppers are set to spend over £2 billion on ethical foods this year alone, up by a massive 62 per cent since 2002.

" People in Britain today are clearly moving towards more ethical lifestyles and are starting to realise that their actions all have consequences," said the report.

 

"As British shoppers increasingly look to shop with a clear conscience, Mintel forecasts that the market will continue to grow for the foreseeable future."

 

The research suggests that this trend towards ethical consumerism runs deep. For example, 75 per cent of British now believe that people have a duty to recycle, up from 65 per cent in 2002.

 

Similarly, a 34 per cent 'buy Fairtrade where available', up from just one in four in 2002 and two in five now 'buy free-range products whenever they can' (up from 33 per cent in 2002).

 

Similarly, where once price was all important, rising disposable income and a generally more affluent society has allowed people to start living up to their ethics and a third of adults now believe it is worth paying more for Fairtrade, organic and locally sourced foods.

 

"Ethical-food suppliers have traded on the fringes of the UK grocery market for many years and until recently only a few sectors, such as free-range eggs, had really established themselves," said Julie Sloan, senior market analyst at Mintel.

 

"But now many more ethical products have entered the mainstream-foods sector, with leading suppliers and retailers becoming increasingly involved. In the present climate, many companies may be hoping to improve their profile by projecting a more ethical stance.

 

"But whatever their reasonings for choosing the ethical route, this movement is certainly a step in the right direction towards a more ethically-minded society. With these products becoming rapidly more widely available, the market is set to see substantial future growth."

 

According to the Mintel Global New Products Database, there were some 70 ethical food products launched last year in the UK alone, up from just 25 in 2002. So far this year, the Mintel GNPD has recorded 53 new ethical food launches, with beverages proving to be the most prolific producers of ethical new products.

 

Within the ethical foods market, Fairtrade remains the star performer in terms of sales growth. Fairtrade is set to be worth £230 million by the end of this year, experiencing some 265 per cent growth between 2002 and 2006 alone.

 

What is more, Mintel predicts that Fairtrade will see a further 138 per cent growth over the next five years, with sales crashing through the half a billion pound mark (£547 million) by 2011.

 

"Mintel's latest insights confirm what the Fairtrade Foundation is experiencing on a daily basis - rapidly growing consumer and business interest in Fairtrade and wider ethical food shopping," Barbara Crowther from the Fairtrade Foundation.

 

"This shows no signs of abating, and is also moving beyond the food sector for us now. The challenge now is to consolidate long term Fairtrade commitments as part of mainstream consumer and business behaviour, in order to bring about tangible and sustainable change for millions more producers in developing countries."

 

'Attitudes Towards Ethical Foods in the UK' is available from Mintel priced £995.