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Horsemeat in the food supply: one year on

Published:11 January 2014
Fieldwork:13 - 17 December 2013
Source:Ipsos MarketQuest
Keywords:Food/diet, horsemeat, Retail, Retail
(Click on keywords to find related Research)
Last year’s discovery of unlicensed horsemeat in supermarket products, one of the most widely-publicised food-supply incidents in recent years, has had a long-lasting impact on many British consumers.

An Ipsos MORI survey reveals that as many as 31% of British adults have changed the way they choose or buy food in the past 12 months, and almost all adults in the UK (95%) remember the horsemeat incident. 

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 horsemeat 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 horsemeat was found in frozen food, particularly ‘frozen burgers’ (69%) and ‘frozen ready meals’ (65%). Other products mentioned to include horsemeat 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 horsemeat 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 25-34. 11% of consumers now perceive Birds Eye and Rustlers less favourably.

Stephen Yap, Head of Ipsos MarketQuest, commented: 

‘The horsemeat scandal of 2013 is still fresh in the minds of many. The frozen-food industry in particular, Tesco and Iceland are most closely associated with the scandal and their reputations have yet to make a full recovery. It is clear that public confidence will take a long while yet to recover.’

Technical note

The research was conducted on i:omnibus, Ipsos MORI’s online omnibus, between 13th – 17th December 2013.Questions were asked online of 1,010 adults aged 16-75 across Great Britain. Data are weighted to the known profile of the British population.

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