In this interview with Moira Dean, Professor in consumer psychology and food security at Queens University in Belfast, Northern Ireland (UK) we talk about her research into consumer food choices, food safety, food fraud, risk perceptions, and food supply chain management and food labeling.
She did research into consumer behavior during the Covid pandemic.
So around September 2020, we did a survey in ten European countries, Germany, Spain, Finland, UK, Greece, Italy, Poland, Romania, Sweden. We sort of chose the country because they were diverse in geography but also diverse in food culture and also different, they experience the effect of pandemic in different ways. And we chose about 500 sort of nationally representative consumers from each of their countries. So it was a survey that was done online. And what we wanted to know is what did people do in terms of their food choices during the pandemic?
Was it the same before the pandemic or have they made some changes? Remember, this is their perception, so it’s not actual behavior, but what they say, what their behaviour is. We measured it on, I think it’s like 22 items in terms of what kind of food, so I’ll give you some examples, dairy produce, fish, meat, poultry. Did you do the same as what you did before? Or did you change? Collected all the data and we asked some other questions as demographic questions who they were. But you also asked other psychographic questions, their intention, their goals towards food and so on. And then we put all their answers together and we found that there were clusters. So there were people who behaved in different ways. So 60% of the people that we collected data from they what we call resilience, so they didn’t change their behaviour, their eating behaviour, consumption behaviour during the pandemic. They carried on from what they were doing before. But there were changes of 40% of the people and they also at 40% they were different behaviours, so 35% of them said that they enjoyed more of the cooking part, they enjoyed the food more in terms of they cooked with their family and they spent more time with the food. But within that there were differences. So there were about 17% who we would call went towards a more healthful, sustainable diet
On food and trust:
We’ve been working on trust for a long time, and I think if you do surveys and ask people, do you trust the food that you buy? Do you trust the producers? You trust the retailers? The trust is reasonably high. But what happens is when there is some sort of problem, so like in the U.K., when we had the beef scandal, when horsemeat was substituted for beef, even though there were no health implications, we soon found out that there were no steroids and stuff that were problematic. But then there were a repercussion in terms of trust about people asked how was it produced? How is it manufactured? Do we know what’s happening and so on. So trust does go up and down depending on what is happening within the context or in the rest of the in terms of the food production. But when it comes to sustainability, I think what’s happening is people want to know more how their food is produced. So is it animal friendly? Are they using pesticides? Are they being good to the workers? So there are extra questions being asked in terms of how the food is being produced, the food that they are being given. Also, there has been a lot of exploratory work done by journalists to look to see and when there are stories about how animals are housed, how they are treated, how they are slaughtered and so on, then people are thinking about how is it going to affect me and do I want animals to suffer for those kinds of things?
For the full interview:
Transcript of the interview
Here is the full transcript of the interview:
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