Consumers rank food safety at the supermarket as number 1. As suppliers, we often don’t give food safety the profile in our businesses that reflects this ranking, probably because we are focussed on price and quality. Consumers take a long time to forgive a food safety incident, which is why we must be so diligent to get food safety right.

They say you can find research results to prove just about anything, and ‘they’ could be right. Here at PMA A-NZ, we’re pretty fussy about the research we quote. We like reputable researchers, a sizeable sample, questions that aren’t skewed to a particular result and lots of options. In this case, it’s a bonus that the results support something close to our collective hearts!

Roy Morgan Research Group interviewed 15,471 grocery buyers aged 14 plus and concluded that “food safety at the supermarket is important to more Australian grocery buyers than proximity to home, good value, trading hours or the quality and range of fresh fruit and vegetables.”

That’s a big statement and it needs some qualification. First, 57 per cent of grocery buyers indicating that food safety standards are a very important factor when deciding where to shop was only just more important than whether the store is near the shopper’s home and that the purchases represent good value, both ranking at 55 per cent. Not a big margin.

There is a long tail of other factors that consumers regard with high importance, such as hygienically prepared food and a clean and tidy store (53 per cent), fresh produce quality, convenient trading hours and low prices (all 52 per cent), easy parking (51 per cent), fresh fruit and vegetable range (47 per cent), clean and functional trolleys (43 per cent), range of brands (42 per cent), weekly specials (41 per cent) and being able to buy everything in the one store (37 per cent). Discounts for regular shoppers or petrol discounts as a central reason shoppers choose a particular supermarket came in at less than 25 per cent. There’s probably a few surprises there for even the most seasoned retail and consumer observers. Again, it’s only one survey.

The second qualification is that the results do not apply equally to all supermarket retailers. Consumers go to different retailers for different reasons it seems. Roy Morgan Research Group Account Manager – Consumer Products Warren Reid said that “food and hygiene factors ranked high for Coles and Woolworths shoppers, price and value for Aldi, and convenience for IGA.”

You have to ask why food safety ranked so high. Is it because an estimated 5.4 million Australians succumb to foodborne illness each year?

You can find the full article including a nice graph of the results here.

Originally posted to the PMA A-NZ blog on Thursday, 3 July 2014.


Image credit: A Rainbow of Fruit Colors by Anthony Albright 2010 (Some rights reserved, CC BY-SA 2.0)