The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) has said that consumers are changing their buying behaviours to manage the rising cost of food, which has resulted in them buying less meat and dairy.

Analyst at the board, Cathy Burton, explained that AHDB’s annual Trust, Transparency and Traceability report revealed that 30% of people would buy less meat and poultry and 19% would buy less dairy to manage the rising cost of food.

However, 53% of consumers said that health is an important factor when they cost food, which Burton believes demonstrates the importance of highlighting the nutritional value of meat and dairy product.

Because of this desire of the consumer to choose healthily while being cost effective, Burton said: “Retailers should look to highlight where meat and dairy can offer low-cost access to quality nutrition.

“The difficult economic climate means that many people are trying to find a new lifestyle balance, and this can often work against healthy eating habits.

“With over half of consumers stating that health is an important factor when they buy food, opportunities still exist for meat and dairy.

“As we now move into a period where health is being consistently deprioritised by consumers, it’s important to push specific health messaging.”

Cost over quality

Burton said there has been a shift in consumer concerns related to health as food inflation takes a toll on people’s wallets.

“Consumers are less pre-occupied with sugar levels, fat content, calories and salt levels whilst other concerns remain stable wave on wave,” she said.

This drop in concern related to the nutritional value of foods has occurred because consumers are at a point in the cost-of-living crisis where they are picking food based on cost rather than on its quality or nutritional benefits.

Burton said retailers must use this data to their advantage to ensure that consumers will still view meat and dairy products as an option when doing their food shopping.

“During difficult times, people generally look for that mood-boost when they shop which can also work against healthy eating habits,” she said.

“Low earners are more likely to prioritise more indulgent self-care activities over health focussed ones, so this could be especially effective amongst these consumers.

“Meat and dairy occupy a niche position where they can fulfil both health and enjoyment needs.”