Ethical Food Survey: Ethics a Small Concern for Food Consumers

Ethics can be an important factor for consumers when considering a wide variety of different products. But it can be particularly important for people when it comes to their food choices. According to Mintel, ethical food consumers are particularly concerned about the treatment of animals. But there can be a number of other important considerations as well. So how many consumers are concerned with ethical food options? And what are some of their favorite ethical food brands? We asked 1,000 respondents on September 21-24 about their food choices and what drives some of their purchases.

ethical food

Food Options

In Ask Your Target Market’s latest survey, 90% of respondents said that they regularly purchase food from grocery stores. 39% regularly buy from fast food restaurants. 27% go to quick service restaurants. 25% go to full service restaurants. 20% regularly buy food from convenience stores. 14% shop at specialty food stores. And 5% regularly buy food from other sources, like online or surplus stores.

When it comes to making those food purchases, 53% ranked cost as their most important consideration. 33% consider quality to be most important when making food purchases. 5% care most about the ingredients and nutritional value. 3% value convenience. And just 1% care most about sustainability and ethical production practices.

Ethical Food

In general, 37% of consumers said that they purchase ethical food options whenever possible. 32% feel that they have plenty of options when it comes to accessing and purchasing ethical foods. And 32% said they would potentially even pay extra for food that they consider to be ethical.

More specifically, 45% of respondents think that food needs to be eco-friendly in order to be ethical. Another 45% said they consider healthy food to be ethical. 43% care about companies paying fair wages to workers. 38% care about their food being free range. 36% look for fair trade labels. 16% think that ethical food needs to be vegetarian or vegan. 3% named other factors, like non-GMO and generally humane treatment of livestock. And 23% said they have no opinion about what makes food ethical.

Ethical Brands

Overall, just 4% said they always purchase ethical food from restaurants. 10% said they do so most of the time. 14% do so about half the time. 19% said they rarely ever purchase ethical food options from restaurants. 11% never do. And 42% were unsure or had no opinion. The most popular ethical restaurants mentioned by respondents include Chipotle, Panera, Olive Garden and Jimmy Johns.

In addition, 4% of respondents said they always purchase ethical food options when shopping at grocery stores. 12% do so most of the time. 21% do so about half the time. 17% said they rarely ever purchase ethical food options from grocery stores. 8% never do. And 39% were unsure or had no opinion. Trader Joe’s, Kroger, Amy’s and Annie’s were named as some popular ethical grocery brands.

Key Takeaways

Ethical food can be a factor for some consumers, but it’s generally not as important as other factors like cost, quality and even convenience. In addition, a decent amount of consumers aren’t even sure whether or not the foods they purchase are actually ethical. So brands that do have ethical practices need to go out of their way to let consumers know that their food is ethical and why that is, since they aren’t likely to seek that information out on their own. But if you get specific and let consumers know exactly why your food is ethically produced, they could be more likely to actually care about that information. Health, sustainability and treatment of workers are just some of the factors that food brands can use to convey an ethical brand image.

You can view the complete survey results in the widget below and be sure to click “Open Full Report” to take advantage of all the chart and filter options.

Photo Credit: New Covent Garden Market by Ethical Eats under CC BY 2.0

What do you want to know? If you need some consumer insights on a particular topic, let us know in the comments below and we’ll consider it for an upcoming survey post.

Results were collected on September 21-24 via AYTM’s online survey panel.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Anne Pilon
Anne Pilon brings 3 years experience to AYTM as a blogger and journalist. She has a degree in journalism and marketing communications from Columbia College in Chicago and enjoys writing about business, marketing, social media, and art.