Communicating with consumers: the Farmer-Consumer Partnership project and ethical values
Chair: Andrew Jedwell (consultant)
Susanne Padel (ORC): The Farmer Consumer Partnership project and marketing handbook
Dr Susanne Padel is the team leader of the socio-economic research team at ORC. Susanne has worked with the organic sector and market development in UK and Europe since 1985. She has a background in extension and completed her PhD in Agricultural Economics (UWA) on conversion of dairy farms to organic farming in 2002. She is one of the editors of the Organic Farm Management Handbook. Recent project work related to the revision of the organic regulation, values and principles and policy support. She currently works on consumer attitudes to certification and ethical attributes or organic food.
Presentation - The Farmer Consumer Partnership project and marketing handbook
Sue Fowler (Organic Centre Wales): Consumer Engagement: Welsh perspectives
Sue is currently Director of Organic Centre Wales having served a six-year apprenticeship as Policy officer under the directorship of Nic Lampkin. After completing her degree in Aberystwyth, organic farming research on nutrient cycling was followed with experience as an organic inspector in Scotland, returning to Aberystwyth in 1996 to work on organic farming research projects into the economics of organic farming. She has also served two terms as a Trustee of the Soil Association and was chair of their Standards Board.
Presentation - Consumer Engagement: Welsh perspectives
Roger Kerr (Calon Wen): Why did Calon Wen go ‘ethical’ and join the SA ethical trade scheme?
Roger was born in Warwickshire and spent much of his childhood on a dairy farm in Sussex. He studied Agriculture at Harper Adams and went on to work in the agricultural supply industry for ten years before setting up his own consultancy partnership specialising in organic agriculture in 1999. Roger has been involved with Calon Wen from its inception and worked with the original four founding farmers to establish the business before accepting the full time role of Managing Director in 2002.
Presentation - Why did Calon Wen go ‘ethical’ and join the SA ethical trade scheme?
Session Summary -
Susanne Padel (ORC) led us through some of the results from the Farmer Consumer Partnership Project that investigated which ‘organic plus’ values consumers are interested in, and willing to pay a price premium for. Consumer choices when buying organic food were assessed across five European countries. Results demonstrated that consumers preferred to choose products which claimed a higher standard of animal welfare, over regional production. In terms of willingness to pay, products from the respective region were preferred in most of the countries assessed. Fair prices for farmers were only relevant for two countries. The preference for locally produced food was backed up by Sue Fowler’s presentation, which revealed results from surveys in England and Wales; it was found that even consumers who buy a lot of organic tend to prefer local products. Sue Fowler also stated that consumer motivations for organic purchases tended to be for reasons of taste and health, over better animal welfare conditions for animals. The main barrier to buying within this study was found to be product price. Despite this the majority of organic shoppers were found to accept some of the benefits provided by organic agriculture, such as wildlife benefits and better animal welfare. Sue also highlighted that Organic Centre Wales (OCW) are planning a number of workshops to inform producers about consumer perceptions, drawing on the results from the study carried out. Sue also explained that OCW are not ‘pushing certification’ as the method to account for additional benefits provided by organic, as bureaucracy can be a disincentive for producers.
Roger Kerr then presented his experiences of being part of the Soil Association’s Ethical Trade Scheme, through the Welsh milk co-operative ‘Calon Wen’. Roger highlighted that ‘Calon Wen’ are trying to keep production as local as possible, making sure that everyone in the supply chain gets a fair deal (eg: farmers getting a fair price for their milk). The primary aim for ‘Calon Wen’ is securing a future for Welsh dairying, promoting organic is secondary. Roger also stated that it is currently difficult to justify additional premiums for organic, and clear arguments for Organic ‘Plusses’ are difficult to get across, especially when consumers are bombarded with messages and have no time (and all you have is a label). Despite this ‘Calon Wen’ has found the Ethical Trade Scheme useful in terms of promoting a healthy work environment and has helped contribute to their recent success – ‘Calon Wen’ has won a number of food awards in recent years including the Radio 4 Food Programme ‘Food Producer of the Year’ and True Taste ‘Sustainable Development Award’.
The discussion that followed the presentations brought out the following points:
- Ethical trade goes beyond the business boundary – it is difficult to limit to the farm business alone
- Consumers were not really interested in farmers’ welfare, but were interested in Fair Trade, which seems to be a contradiction
- People are seeking local food because they do not trust the ‘conventional model’ of food supply
- A lot of consumers are very confused and go for local because it is easy (ie: easier than organic) to understand
- The argument of putting more money in the farmers pocket would not wash in England; in Wales this would be more popular
- There are wide differences in age categories when it comes to buying choices/consumer behaviour