TALLINN – While as recently as six years ago, 90 percent of Estonian residents preferred to buy Estonian food, the economic crises of recent years have significantly reduced this ratio, the Estonian Chamber of Agriculture and Commerce says.
The Institute of Economic Research, which studied the purchasing preferences and attitudes of Estonian residents for groceries in 2022, pointed out that the oldest food label in Estonia, "Recognized Estonian Food," commonly known as the swallow label, still has a good reputation among consumers. The survey revealed that the awareness of respondents about Estonian and European Union food labels has either remained at the same level or decreased slightly over the past two years.
In general, ethnic Estonians know the food labels better than Russian-speakers.
The economic crises of recent years, induced by the COVID related restrictions and Russia's war in Ukraine, as well as the volatility of energy prices, have increased the number of households that cannot always buy the groceries they want. A total of 65 percent of respondents admitted that they don't buy the groceries of their liking every time, compared to 60 percent in 2020. Less than one in five families always buys the food they like, compared with 30 percent in 2020. Fifteen percent of respondents either rarely buy the groceries of their liking or cannot afford to buy them, the ratios being 11 and 4 percent, respectively. In 2020, the respective indicators were 7 and 3 percent.
The proportion of respondents who can always afford the food they want has declined by 11 percentage points since 2020. The share of those who can buy the food they want either not always, rarely or not at all meanwhile has increased. On the upside, 84 percent of respondents can still buy the food they want, either always or in general.
The survey revealed that looking at the label on the packaging plays a major role for customers when buying a product for the first time, with 98 percent of consumers checking the information or label on the packaging of a food product when buying it for the first time -- 30 percent always, 40 percent often and 28 percent rarely.
Since 2020, the proportion of people who rarely look at the label has increased by 7 percentage points. The proportion of people who always look at the label has decreased by 4 percentage points and the share of those who often look at the label has dropped by 3 percentage points.
The changes in the proportions are not very large and the ratios have stayed within the same range since 2016. By income group, respondents earning between 1,501 and 2,500 euros a month, young people aged 18-29, and respondents with first and second levels of education are the least likely to check the product label.