Ethical issues are becoming ever-more important to today’s consumers, writes Sarah Lelic, editor, mad.co.uk
Marks and Spencer’s latest ad campaign is yet another sign that consumers are becoming increasingly concerned about the provenance of their goods – be they food or clothing.
Last week, the high-street stalwart launched a high profile ad campaign entitled “Look behind the label”, covering its entire range of products.
As part of this strategy, many of the retailer’s cotton products will now be made from Fairtrade cotton, its fish will only come from sustainable stocks and all eggs, whether fresh or a constituent ingredient in another product, will be free range.
And for good reason. According to the retailer, a poll that it carried out prior to launching the campaign shows that consumers are now much more conscious than ever about ethical issues when buying food.
The poll revealed that 59% of consumers said that they wouldn’t buy a food product if they felt concerned about where the item had come from or the conditions under which it had been made.
In addition, 72% registered their concern over the future sustainability of fish stocks.
All this, of course, has much relevance for the catering trade.
If consumers are concerned about the food they buy in the shops, they will also be thinking about what they eat in restaurants and hotels.
Many eateries have long been at the forefront of the drive to improve the sourcing and quality of ingredients, in particular the use of organic meat and vegetables, and locally-ourced products.
In fact, in many cases, it was the restaurant trade that was responsible for driving consumer behaviour when ethical food was a far less popular issue than it is today.
By the same token, however, restaurateurs now need to make sure they remain ahead of the game.
For the restaurant trade this means that both waiting and kitchen staff should be expected to have a good knowledge of where key produce listed on the menu comes from.
While many restaurants have become well-versed in listing the farms from which meat is sourced and whether or not certain products are organic or not, establishments will now have to be prepared to go into even greater detail as customers become ever more aware of such issues.
If staff are unprepared or unable to answer such questions, then a restaurant’s brand credentials will be seriously undermined in this important area.
As the consumer trend towards ethical food intensifies the restaurant trade needs to make sure that it keeps abreast of these changes.
This means showing an active interest in such issues, from the management, through the kitchen staff to the waiting teams.
Failure to do so will ultimately result in a drift of business towards restaurants that can adequately prove their ethical credentials.