A couple weeks ago I published a local food survey. I was curious to find out how much people spend, where they shop, and what their impressions are. There were 124 responses from people all over the country. The survey even went international with one response from Holland!
A big Thank You to everyone who completed the survey. The results are interesting and have a couple surprises too.
Some General Observations
Labeling needs to be clear and understandable. Sustainable food especially has to address this. Most people have little idea where their food comes from and how it was produced. When we think of the problems with over-fishing, this should be a top priority for food manufacturers.
Price is a problem. I've often remarked that it is a mistake to position "local" food as a premium product because it limits the growth of the local food economy. The survey results seem to support that. Price is a strong factor when people shop. People are only willing and able to spend so much (around $150 per week). If the prices at the store are too high for local, sustainable, and/or organic food, then most people choose not to buy those things. If local is going to be everyday, it has to have everyday prices. Same with organic and sustainable foods.
Food spending at $100-$150 per week remains consistent regardless of the type of store people shop at. What does change is the number of people involved. 2 person households skew toward premium grocery stores while 4 person households skew toward standard grocery stores. To me, this means cost is a stronger factor.
2 person and 4 person households in the survey ranked pretty similar when it came to their cooking styles. 78% of two person and 74% of 4 person households were likely to cook from scratch several times a week or practically every day. This is interesting because it shows that the business of family life--kids, school, etc.--does not seem to be a hindrance to cooking from scratch.
72% of 2 person households reported that they enjoyed cooking while 39% also indicated that they had busy lives. While 4 person households also reported that they enjoy cooking (62%), the same percentage were also more likely to point out that their lives are busy and they need quick and easy meals.
What do people look for when they are shopping?
- 81% local
- 79% organic
- 69% seasonal
- 64% fresh
- 63% ripeness
- 56% sustainable
- 37% low sugar
- 9% fat free
- Big Box Stores -- 63% never, 17% only for something special, 6% regarded it as standard
- Discount Grocery -- 67% never, 6% standard
- Normal Grocery Stores -- 51% standard, 12% never
- Premium Grocery -- 40% standard, 27% when they can, 23% for special items only
- Specialty Stores -- 42% for special items, 24% never, 19% when they can, 6% said this was their standard
- Farmers' Markets -- 61% when they can, 15% standard, 8% never
- Clubs/CSA - 57% never, 13% standard, 12% not available
- Stands and Carts -- 43% never, 37% when they can, 4% standard
Also, organic got the biggest ding for being overpriced. 50% of respondents remarked that the price of organic food as an issue. Are producers price gouging for items labeled "organic"? It's possible and people are noticing.
Sustainably Produced Food
Most people appreciate organic food, but price and people's understanding of what organic really means are obstacles for this group.
71% had a positive disposition toward organic food.
50% were concerned about price.
7% expressed confusion or concern about what "organic" means and the certification process.
Organic food gets a bigger backlash than I had predicted. 7% were either confused about what "organic" means or openly complained about the certification process.
- "I think the certification process is a sham."
- "the lowered organic standards now in effect concern me".
- "The term can be misleading. Many uncertified farms are offering better quality food than organic stuff you can get in a huge store. Practices are what counts."
- "I don't think the certification is the last, or only word though."
- "It is good but labeling can be misleading; organic is not always best"
- "tough to know exactly what "organic" means - but it's better than processed"
- "I'd like to know what food is truly organic and what just passes the checklist and can label it 'organic'."
- "I would eat more if it wasn't so expensive."
- "The cost of organic stands in my way. I am the only income, so I have to be careful with my budget. If I could afford it, I would everything organic."
- "Expensive at times"
- "We eat it all the time, but it bothers me that it costs so much more. We still pay though."
- "it's expensive but worth it."
This food label seems important, but not well understood or identified.
72% had a positive dispostion toward sustainable food
27% expressed concern about the price of sustainably produced food
12% expressed confusion over sustainable food, especially identification and labeling.
Surprisingly, 1% more people had a positive disposition toward sustainable food than organic food. However, 12% also had trouble understanding and/or identifying sustainable food at the grocery store.
- "Right now it feels like just a trendy catch phrase."
- "unsure how to know/find"
- "It's hard to find"
- "Many products don't easily show on their packaging how they are produced. If it were easier to tell that thing were sustainably produced, I'd be more likely to buy that product."
- "Without set standards it is hard to verify it's truly sustainability"
- "I don't know what to look for."
- "Don't know if the food is sustainable."
- "I may already buy sustainably produced food, but I am not sure. I wish there was a label for that."
- "not quite sure how to know it since I shop at Fred Meyer"
- "no label info that I know of."
- "Another thing I just don't know how to find the information on and would love to know more."
Variety and availability were an issue for local food eaters. Like "sustainable" food, price was an issue for some, but not to the same extent as organic food.
85% had a positive disposition toward local food.
25% expressed difficulties finding local food.
27% said price was an issue.
15% said there was not enough variety
- "Very short growing season"
- "I'm really big on bananas, avocados and mangos...hard "
- "Not always easy to achieve "
- "I would love to eat local but I don't know where to get it"
- "seasonal issues....in winter"
- "no convient locations"
- "I would like to try to eat more locally, but I tend to eat foods that are in season year round, and I want what I want."
- "Not all nutritional needs can be filled local year round, thus seasonal."
- "I would not limit myself to only local due to food preferences (eg. oranges, bananas, etc.)"
- "Life just wouldn't be the same without lemons, mangoes and bananas."
- "I'd get it if I they had local farmers markets (that are open year round) by my home or if I could easily go to Sauvie's Island more."
- "We've had fresh, local food delivered to our house two different times. Once was great, and once they shut down and kept all of our money. I'm leery of doing that again."
- "Accessibility is an issue. I need it in my store or at my door."
75% of respondents were from Oregon.
7% were from California.
The remaining 18% were from 11 other states and Holland (one response).
13% of responses were from households with only one person.
29% were from two person households.
23% were from three person households.
27% were from four person households.
5% were from five person households.
3% were from households with six or more people.
25% spend less than $100 per week on food.
42% spend $100 to $150 per week.
17% spend $150 to $200 per week.
12% spend $200 to $250 per week.
4% spend $250 or more on food every week.
68% of respondents said they enjoy cooking.
50% of respondents said their life was busy and they needed quick and easy meals.
9% said someone else cooks for them
9% of respondents said they don't like to cook.
46% cook from scratch practically everyday
28% cook from scratch a few times a week
19% cook from scratch when they have time on the weekend
2% said they cook from scratch only for special occasions.
5% said they could not remember the last time they cooked from scratch.
16% use coupons all the time. 57% rarely. 27% never.
85% had never participated in a food challenge.
78% of respondents look online for cooking ideas
61% of respondents collect cookbooks
48% of respondents talk to their friends about cooking ideas.
23% of respondents have a cooking app for ideas
3% of respondents belong to a cooking club