Finnish researchers call for more customer-centred approach by food retailers

The dominant food retailers should be more flexible in responding to changing customer behaviour, according to researchers at the National Consumer Research Centre in Finland.

The researchers see these developments as a response by consumers against the strong concentration and uniform product selections within the Finnish grocery trade. They believe that industrial food production and consumers’ values have diverged significantly. Many consumers are now suspicious of highly processed foods and the long lists of additives found on many products.

According to the researchers, there are many reasons for the growing interest in food that is produced locally or on a small-scale. Consumers are demanding better quality, including good taste, healthiness and naturalness. Products that differ from the mass produced selections also offer opportunities for people to identify as particular types of consumers.

Many Finnish consumers now prefer ecological production methods and to want to support the vitality of the countryside. They also use their shopping preferences to take a stand on ethical issues like income distribution and animal welfare. A local shop is also seen as more than a product distribution point. Customers value opportunities for interaction with each other, as well as the authenticity of the service and sense of community they can experience in a small local shop compared to a faceless supermarket.