The Nielsen Global Brand-Origin Survey polled more than 30,000 online respondents in 61 countries to understand consumer sentiment about product origin across 40 categories, from consumables to durables. Here are some select findings from the report on fresh and packaged foods.
For fresh foods, local brands are, not surprisingly, the clear preference. The majority of global respondents who have purchased the category say they prefer local brands to global ones for vegetables (68 per cent vs. 11 per cent), meat (66 per cent vs. 13 per cent), fruit (64 per cent vs. 12 per cent), seafood (57 per cent vs. 18 per cent) and yogurt (52 per cent vs. 22 per cent).
The preference for local brands holds for every fresh category in the study and in every region, with only one exception: For yogurt, North American respondents show an equal one-third split between a preference for local and global brands. The remaining one-third say brand origin isn’t important.
And the yogurt category is not the only difference for North American respondents. While a preference for locally sourced fresh foods trumps a preference for globally sourced fresh foods in the region, the percentage of respondents who say they prefer local brands is below the global average for all five fresh food categories, while the percentage who say they prefer global brands is higher than in any other region.
At the country level, several European countries stand out for having a notably strong preference for local brands. Greece, for example, has the highest percentage of respondents who say they prefer local products for all five fresh-food categories.
With Greece’s long coastline and ample resources for fresh food, it’s no surprise that nearly nine in 10 Greek respondents say they prefer local fruit (89 per cent), vegetables (89 per cent), seafood (89 per cent), meat (88 per cent) and yogurt (88 per cent). But this strong local orientation may also be a reflection of the country’s economic situation, as Greece has the highest percentage of respondents who say they buy local brands because they help support the local economy (81 per cent).
Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania and Ukraine also have some of the strongest preferences for locally produced fresh foods.
“Perishability is an obvious factor for purchasing locally sourced foods, but food safety concerns and cost are other important considerations for consumers,” says Group President, Nielsen Growth Markets, Patrick Dodd.
“Additionally, buying local fresh products increases the likelihood that a product will be more f lavorful and, in some cases, more nutritious than one transported from many miles away, as the nutritional value of some foods diminishes with time,” he adds.
For packaged foods and snacks, the story is somewhat similar to that for fresh foods: Even though there is no ‘perishables’ barrier impeding the growth of global brands in this case, local taste preferences dominate.
Among global respondents who purchase the category, local brands are preferred to global brands for ice cream (44 per cent vs. 27 per cent, respectively), cookies and biscuits (40 per cent vs. 28 per cent), crisps and crackers (40 per cent vs. 28 per cent), breakfast cereal (44 per cent vs. 29 per cent), instant noodles (47 per cent vs. 24 per cent) and canned vegetables (53 per cent vs. 20 per cent).
Sweets and chocolate is the only category of packaged-foods and snacks in the study where global brands are preferred to local ones (37 per cent vs. 33 per cent).
“Winning in packaged-food and snack categories is all about understanding and innovating around local tastes and eating habits,” says Dodd.
“Local companies often have a deeper understanding of consumer tastes in their market and can respond more quickly to changing needs. Therefore, they are typically adept at developing products that appeal to these particular preferences. Global brands, in contrast, often capitalize on economies of scale and off er more homogeneous products across markets.”
At the regional level, preferences in Asia-Pacific and Africa/Middle East mirror the global results. Local brands are also preferred in Latin America for all of the packaged-food and snack categories in the study except sweets and breakfast cereal, and in Europe (although the largest percentage of respondents in Europe say brand origin is not important for sweets, crackers and instant noodles). In North America, preferences are split.
More respondents say they prefer global brands to local ones for sweets/chocolates, breakfast cereal, crackers and instant noodles, but local brands are preferred for ice cream and canned vegetables. For most of these categories, however, the largest percentage of North American respondents say brand origin isn’t important to them.
For several beverage categories where spoilage is a concern or flavor preferences diff er by region, local brands are preferred over global ones. Respondents in every region prefer local brands for juice, water and milk.
Opinions are split, however, when it comes to alcoholic beverages, carbonated soft drinks, coffee and tea. Among those who purchase carbonated soft drinks, global brands are preferred in every region except Europe, where the largest percentage says brand origin is not important to them.
In many markets, MNCs were first to sell carbonated soft drinks, and they continue to dominate the category as a result. Among those who purchase alcoholic beverages, global brands are preferred in North America, while local brands are preferred in Latin America.
Interestingly, alcohol brand preference doesn’t seem to be related to the strength of local production or product quality. In France, Spain and Italy—some of the world’s largest wine and spirit producers—the largest percentage of consumers say brand origin isn’t important to them (48 per cent, 42 per cent and 38 per cent, respectively).
When it comes to coffee and tea, however, brand preferences and local production are clearly aligned. Local brands are preferred in Latin America, Africa/Middle East and Asia-Pacific.
The strongest preference for local brands is in Vietnam (77 per cent) and Colombia (73 per cent), which are both among the five largest coffee-producing countries in the world; Vietnam is also among the top 10 tea producers.
Global brands, in contrast, are preferred in North America and Europe, regions where there is relatively little production of coffee and tea and where many consumers have the financial means to purchase imports.