Shoppers actively seek out Manx food and drink and are increasingly opting for convenience, a survey has revealed.
The survey, commissioned by the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture (DEFA) and conducted online in May, attracted 949 responses – nearly double the number of previous market research.
More than 90% of those who responded say they purchase Manx milk, vegetables, eggs, cheese and bread, while 70% buy local beef, lamb, pork, flour and artisan foods. Only 2% say they purchase no Manx produce.
Quality, freshness and the fact it's local entice more than half of respondents to buying Manx produce, while convenience, price, traceability and low food miles are factors for just under 20%.
Improved price, quality and availability could lead to greater spending on Isle of Man food and drink, the survey found.
While respondents are familiar with a wide range of Manx produce, fewer know they can purchase Manx herbs, salad, goat and biltong.
Participants in the survey identified locally reared chicken and locally fermented wine among products they would buy if available.
The majority of respondents say they find Manx produce easy to identify but check labels to see where items are made or grown. The majority also say a distinctive Manx label would be beneficial to help them pick out local produce.
The survey also revealed a change in shopping habits since the last research, conducted in 2010.
More than half of respondents shop when they need to, rather than to any fixed pattern.
While stores such as Shoprite, Tesco and Marks & Spencer still have a large share of the market, the survey found convenience was playing a bigger part in choice of where to shop, with the Co-op, Spar, independent retailers, farmers' markets and the newly established Food Assembly all attracting custom.
A third of respondents say their households spend more than £100 a week on food and drink shopping and a quarter spend £71 or more.
Overall, and not just in relation to Manx produce, quality, price and freshness remain the three most important factors when buying food but convenience is also influential.
DEFA conducted the survey as part of its Food Matters strategy to grow the value of food and drink to the economy by £50 million.
Richard Ronan MHK, Minister for Environment, Food and Agriculture, said:
'I'd like to thank everyone who participated in the survey.
'It is pleasing to see there is an awareness of, loyalty to and desire to buy local produce and a keen interest in new products.
'It is also interesting that two thirds of people now shop for food and drink more than once a week and that convenience is a growing factor in deciding where to shop.'
The Minister said:
'The findings will help us understand what factors influence shoppers' choices as we continue to encourage new and diversifying business to explore new products and markets.
'It is reassuring to have confirmation that consumers view local products as very good quality and fair value for money.
'The data reinforces that we should develop a certified and recognisable Manx logo so consumers can be confident they are buying high quality and good value items which were genuinely produced locally.
'I hope the survey results will give those considering diversification into food production the re-assurance they need that a good market is available for high quality locally produced food and that this will encourage strong applicants to our new Agriculture, Fisheries and Food grant scheme, which is designed to support producers in growing their businesses.'
A summary of the survey results can be found at www.iomfoodanddrink.com