According to a recent survey, an overwhelming 90 percent of Estonians prefer domestic food products, citing reliability, taste and health reasons.
According to Pille Liivaauk, researcher with the Estonian Institute of Economic Research, which carried out the survery on behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture, the percentage of consumers preferring domestic to imported products has grown from 73 percent in 1996 to 87 percent in 2002.
"The most active supporters of domestic food producers are people aged 30 to 64. Support among youth is growing but now is about 10 percent lower than the average," she said.
According to the survey's findings, the first things an average Estonian buyer examines when taking a food package into his or her hands are the expiry date, the name of the product and its origin. The brand and the usage of preservatives, by contrast, are less important.
Major food safety issues named by the approximate 800 survey respondents include bacteria, mad-cow disease, genetically modified products and preservatives.
Marje Josing, head of the institute, said that according to the survey the three main factors for Estonian consumers in regards to food products are taste, quality and nutrition.
"The next most important factor for local consumers is the price, of course. Prominent brands and nifty packaging are less significant," she said. Surprisingly, patriotism is the very last reason for an Estonian to buy a domestic product, the survey concluded.
Also, the survey found that the heated battle between the spacious and well-lit supermarkets and traditional open markets is deadlocked. The price difference between them has leveled off, and these days Estonian consumers tend to frequent the supermarkets because of their vast product variety.
Still, open markets have lost only 2 percent of their clientele since 2001 and still are the main source of food products for about 22 percent of consumers, according to the survey.
Furthermore, in some ways supermarkets still cannot compete with the open markets. For example, 42 percent of Estonian buyers shop for fish at open markets.
On the other hand, shops and supermarkets are the preferred source for milk products, wheat flour and cereals.
And as always certain products, such as potatoes, are often grown by Estonian consumers themselves thanks to the centuries-old tradition of cultivating a garden at the summer house.
In 2002 about 30 percent of consumers preferred products with the "tunnustatud Eesti maitse" (acknowledged Estonian taste) label - the round-shape label with a swallow, a bird symbolizing Estonian.
Other high-quality Estonia-made products, such as chocolate and soft drinks made on imported raw materials, have a round sticker with a trefoil on it.
The labeling system was developed in 1998 by the Chamber of Agriculture and Commerce to promote food products made in Estonia.