Why Australian made is here to stay

Local manufacturers who proclaim their Australian-made credentials may come out of the COVID-19 disaster ahead. Megan Stanton, senior analyst at Mintel Food and Drink and Mintel Purchase Intelligence, on explains how food businesses can take advantage.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted deficiencies in so many of our systems and turned the spotlight directly on the importance of transparency and safety. What that has done is create opportunities for local businesses, especially those who control the food supply chain. To take full advantage, the manufacturers of Australian-made food products need to strike while the iron is hot and reap the benefits of changing consumer attitudes.

“Buy local” initiatives aren’t new, of course, but with the country facing recession and many people forced to ponder the security of their own jobs, consumers have become open to paying a little more if it means they’ll get a quality product and are able to support local industry.

In a recent Mintel study, 52 per cent of respondents said they tried to buy locally grown food all or most of the time. That figure had risen by eight percentage points, up from 44%, in just 12 months.

Safety first, say consumers
Mintel’s Purchase Intelligence tool shows Australians believe locally manufactured products deliver on taste, quality and trustworthiness, and offer better value for money than imported products. Asked to choose between a variety of products in the same category, most participants indicated they would buy a product locally made from Australian ingredients over a less-expensive overseas product.

For a category like frozen fruit, where there have been issues with safety in the past, this was particularly true. Five per cent more respondents suggested they’d pay $6 for 400 grams of 100% Australian-grown frozen mangoes rather than $4 for 500g of supermarket-brand frozen mangoes grown in Mexico and packed in Canada. On reviewing a frozen mango product from Vietnam a  male 35-54 from NSW said: “After the drama with frozen berries supplied from overseas, I’d say it would be quite risky eating this product if it’s not from Australia.”

Certain product categories, such as breakfast cereals, dairy and savoury spreads , already feature a high proportion of Australian-made products. Others, like packaged fruit and vegetables,and side dishes are not as well represented and offer manufacturers a chance to fill a hole in the market.

Aussie jobs also important
Safety, however, wasn’t the only reason respondents gave for choosing Australian made over imported brands. They also believe Australian products taste better and see the value in bolstering the local economy by supporting Australian jobs and farmers. Purchase Intelligence shows , Berenberg Australian-made jams, as an example, outscored similar overseas products in nearly every attribute , including taste, quality, indulgence and health, despite is higher price tag.

Companies that do manufacture locally from Australian-grown produce need to be bold, proclaim their ‘Australian-ness’ and use that authenticity to build trust with shoppers. Consumers are smart. They want to know who makes the products they buy and how. They also want to feel as though they are somehow helping their community by buying locally produced goods. Food manufacturers who can offer them all that will continue to prosper