Yesterday the newspapers were full of stories about how we’re now moving into the next phase of easing lockdown, and I have to wonder as we start to move towards ‘normal’ if the changes made during the pandemic will continue into the future?
Almost straight away during lockdown we saw people adapt their shopping habits. Early survey results showed that more people turned to home deliveries when they could get them. More people looked at ways to reduce their spending due to reduced household budget, so home cooking saw a resurgence, and respect and support for local producers grew as people struggled to find what they needed on supermarket shelves.
A survey we conducted with Censuswide UK in April 2020 found that
- 75.40% of people hope that British farmers can continue to produce fresh milk and dairy in the current crisis
- 74.10% believe it is vital that we build strong local food networks to safeguard domestic food supplies
- 68.30% say the Coronavirus pandemic has made them realise how important our domestic food security is
- 54% say they are more likely to buy local produce because of the Coronavirus pandemic
Local shops also played a vital part in keeping their communities going. More people preferring to shop local or even get their milk from the farmgate meaning an increase in sales going firectly to farmers. The Association of Convenience Stores says around two-thirds of local shops now offer some form of delivery service – up from just over one in 10 in 2019. Midcounties Coop, who stock Pasture Promise free range milk, started to offer a delivery service for isolated and vulnerable people at home who couldn’t come into a store. Showing a more caring society emerging during the crisis, two-fifths said there is a stronger sense of community in their area since the outbreak began and 39% say they are catching up with friends and family more.
Mintel found many people are trying to limit the time they spend in-store at this time and nearly one in 10 (9%) are using ‘click-and-collect’ services more than before the pandemic.
Our farmers with vending machines on the farm or in local areas have seen a big rise in sales. Although people may have first visited farms to buy milk in response to a shortage in the shops, or because like ‘click and collect’ it’s easier to social distance but a good many have continued to buy their milk this way after discovering the great taste of free range milk. They are also pleased to see their money going towards the farmers as appreciation for their hard work.
Other research has found that not only have our shopping habits changed but also our view of the life we used to lead. Only 9% of Britons, according to a survey commissioned by the Royal Society of Arts and The Food Foundation, want life to return to “normal” after the coronavirus outbreak is over, due to people noticing significant changes including cleaner air, more wildlife and stronger communities.
As we’ve seen people have a new found respect for the farmers producing the food on our tables and this is reiterated in another YouGov survey which found 42% of participants said they value food and other essentials more since the pandemic, with 38% cooking from scratch.
What the pandemic did was give us a chance to put a pause in our life. To notice our lives and surroundings. When shelves were stripped bare of essentials, the very food many of us took for granted, that pause made many of us reassess our attitudes to food and the farmers that produce it.
Before lockdown starts to ease even more, maybe now is the time to ask ourselves what do we want the ‘new normal’ to look like? I hope supporting local producers and farmers will continue, as will the development of local supply chains, offering an alternative to the ‘just in time’ model created by large supermarkets. This could have huge potential benefit for farmers, shoppers, health and our environment.
More than half (54%) of 4,343 people who took part in the YouGov poll hope they will make some changes in their own lives and want the country to learn from the crisis.
Right now, what people can do? Keep supporting ocal, keep asking where does this milk come from? Look to support initiatives like Honest Labelling, so you know where and how that milk, dairy and meat was produced. Ask for the Pasture Promise logo on milk when you buy it. We work to support local producers, farmers who graze their cows to meet our standards and pay farmers a premium. The farmers that have worked flat out through this pandemic to supply fresh milk to your family.
I hope what we take into the future is our new love of food as well as stronger bonds between communities and the farmers and producers supplying it.
Stay safe and stay well.