Trade for Development Centre is a programme of Enabel, the Belgian development agency.
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Belgians are hungry for sustainable and fair trade products after containment

Belgians attach more importance than ever to sustainability when it comes to their food shopping. In addition to an increase (+42%) in the preference for local produce – logical consequence of the health crisis – consumers also indicate a desire to consume more fair trade (+23%) and organic (+14%) products after the crisis. They are also turning towards governments and supermarkets, and believe they should take more responsibility in this area. This information comes from a survey conducted by Fairtrade Belgium among more than 1,000 Belgians, in collaboration with Dynata [1].

More and more Belgians are opting for sustainable food during the  coronacrisis, and indicate that they will continue to do so afterwards. Almost half (45%) say they want to pay more attention to sustainable food after containment. 42% say they opt for local products more often than before. Moreover, after the lockdown, almost a quarter of Belgians (23%) say they want to choose fair trade products more often. The preference for organic products has also increased (14%).

Local, fair trade and organic products on the rise

This change in behaviour is also visible in the Nielsen Benelux market research. Johan Vrancken, managing director: “These trends confirm the behaviour that Belgian consumers have already adopted since the beginning of containment. According to our figures, sales of Fairtrade products are increasing sharply in supermarkets. Take coffee, for example. While coffee sales have increased by 19.8% since the beginning of the lockdown, Fairtrade coffee sales have increased by 29.5%. Similar trends have been observed for tea and chocolate. There is also a consumer preference for local stores, whose sales are growing faster than those of supermarkets.”

“These figures indicate that the health crisis has influenced the way we think about our relationship with food,” says Nicolas Lambert, director of Fairtrade Belgium. “This is a remarkable development, especially when you consider that almost three quarters (71%) of respondents pay more attention to their spending because of the crisis. Moreover, Belgians remain pragmatic: among consumers who say it is important to consume more locally, the vast majority (77%) makes an exception for essential products that are impossible to grow locally – think of coffee, cocoa or bananas, for example. In other words, we consume locally if possible, internationally if necessary, with a preference for Fairtrade. The fact that support for more sustainable consumption and a more humane economy has increased to such an extent is gratifying.”

60% of respondents say they are now more aware of the role of producers and farmers in our food system. 57% say that the crisis has led them to pay more attention to the remuneration of farmers who grow their food.

Governments and supermarkets: you have a role to play

A significant proportion of Belgians (59%) believe that, following the COVID19 crisis, supermarkets and retailers should put more emphasis on local (59%), fair trade (40%) and organic (26%) products. Nicolas Lambert: “People say they will go shopping more often in local grocery stores or proximity stores (23%), at the market (21%) or even directly from the producer (33%). All this could be at the expense of conventional supermarkets. It is therefore in their own interest to invest in a sustainable strategy.”

7 out of 10 Belgians also believe that governments need to take action to stimulate the transition to a more sustainable economy. “Governments have the necessary levers to further stimulate this important trend. For example, 70% of our respondents support a reduction of VAT on local, organic and/or fair trade products. A political party that dares to advocate such a measure could count on voter support.”

[1] This is shown by a study conducted at the beginning of May 2020 by Dynata on behalf of Fairtrade Belgium among more than 1,000 Belgians, representative of the Belgian population.

Photo: Fairtrade Belgium

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