Trade Resources Policy & Opinion Perceptions of a Country Can Have a Significant Influence on Consumer Behaviour

Perceptions of a Country Can Have a Significant Influence on Consumer Behaviour

Country of origin matters to consumers. Recent research carried out by Perception Research Services found that the perceptions of a country in consumers’ eyes can have a significant influence on consumer behaviour towards a product originating in that country.

Right now in the UK, it is not mandatory for manufacturers to communicate the country of origin of a product on every pack. But the research shows that whilst country of origin is known to be of importance for food products, brands in other categories may well benefit from communicating their country of origin on packaging as a differentiator and to command a premium.

The study, which interviewed 1,000 UK and French consumers, was commissioned to gain insight into people’s attitudes towards the country of origin of FMCG products, and whether consumers are willing to pay a premium for products that are made in their own country. The study found that the majority of shoppers claim to check the country of origin when purchasing food, drink, household products and even pet food.

People are increasingly interested in the provenance of FMCG. The study found that most half of shoppers, (47%), say that they check the country of origin of products more than they did two years ago. This could be influenced by the current period of economic austerity, amongst other things, causing shoppers to be more discerning in their choices.

Unsurprisingly, shoppers are most concerned about the origin of fresh food – 89% say they check the provenance of these products. However, one third of consumers questioned also check the origin of personal care products and cosmetics and 28% check the origin of household products.

The research also suggests that people are willing to spend more on products which are made in the UK. The majority (57%) are willing to pay more for fresh food. The benefits of fresh food made in the UK are likely to be that the less time the food has spent travelling, the fresher it will be and also the perception the process has been more authentic. Many supermarkets have recognised this and communicate the name of the farm, and farmer that produced certain products that are made in the UK on their packaging.

However, many brands have not invested as much in communicating the provenance of other categories like cosmetics and household products. The study shows that 31% would pay more for cosmetics made in the UK, 30% for personal care products made in the UK, and 27% for household products made in the UK. But a quick online browse finds me just one cosmetic bearing the British flag.

French consumers are even more passionate about buying products made in their country – on average, 33% of Brits say they would pay more for a product that’s made in the UK, while 63% of French respondents will pay more for a product made in France – backing the recent promotion of French provenance within the national retailers

Whilst Made in the UK has traditionally been a gauge of quality, the French were to some degree less motivated by patriotism until recently. During the economic crisis manufacturers pursued the opportunity to communicate their products’ French origin across many categories, (from food to electricals) surfing on the wave of belief that buying French is good for the economy. Our findings very much confirm this current trend.

The results show that consumers want to see the country of origin displayed clearly on packs. 93% would like to see the country of origin clearly on fresh food packs, 90% on packaged food packs and 84% on confectionary packs. The demand for country of origin to be clearly communicated on non-food goods like cosmetics (78%) and household products (77%) is not a great deal less than for it to be communicated on food. This suggests that some brands could set themselves apart from others by communicating the provenance of their products.

The implication therefore for manufacturers is to assess the advantage they can gain, through stipulating the country of origin alongside their existing pack messages.

Grant Montague is vice president Europe of Perception Research Services.

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Grant Montague: Why Country of Origin Needs to Be Considered