Scotland gets taste for fresh fruit and veg

Scotland has a poor reputation for diet, but research seen by Marketing Week reveals that consumers north of the border are putting a higher percentage of healthy produce in their shopping baskets than the rest of Britain.


The stereotype of Scots living on a diet of haggis and deep-fried Mars bars is largely untrue, according to the results of research seen exclusively by Marketing Week.

Indeed, the healthy eating gap between Scottish consumers and those in the rest of Britain appears to be closing. Consumers north of the border are more likely to cook from scratch at home, buy fresh fruit and vegetables and choose food because it is healthy than those people in England and Wales, a study by Kantar Worldpanel reveals.

Just over 19% of Scottish people say that health is a primary reason for choosing food to eat at home, up from 17% in 2008. Health is a motivating factor for 21.5% of English and Welsh people, but this is down from 23% in 2008.

However, marketers should still view consumers north of the border differently, says Mark Thomson, business unit director at Kantar Worldpanel. “Scotland is different to the rest of Britain. People tend to associate it with haggis and deep-fried food, but it is far more complex than that.”

Cooking from scratch is one reason why eating healthily is becoming more popular in Scotland. For example, 44% of the soup consumed by Scots is homemade, compared with 22% for England and Wales.

“Eating in-home now accounts for just under one in five meal occasions in Scotland, with health being the primary reason for this. In the rest of Britain, the number of meals eaten at home has remained pretty flat,” says Thomson.

Red meat

Recipes made with red meat are more likely to be homemade in Scotland than they are in England and Wales, including lasagne, chilli and spaghetti bolognese. The proportion of Scottish people who buy fresh beef is 89%, whereas south of the border this figure is 84%.

This is partly as a result of the strong branding that Scotch beef, pork and lamb has, says Thomson, and a recent marketing campaign has also helped make its meat better known in south-east England (see the Frontline, below).


“Quality Meat Scotland has done a lot of work understanding exactly what areas of London are more likely to buy fresh beef so it can target particular pockets of the capital. It invests in understanding the market in a great deal of depth and is far more strategic and targeted in trying to reach out to certain consumers.”

Marketers should also consider how people shop in Scotland, says Thomson. “Scottish consumers definitely make more trips to the shops and they interact with stores more often. They also spend less per trip, so it is slightly less planned when they shop and a bit more spontaneous.”

Those in Scotland make an average of 292 trips a year to buy groceries, compared with consumers in England and Wales, who make 260 trips a year.
This means there is an opportunity for the convenience sector too, with people shopping little and often, to make sure they don’t buy more than they need.

Click the table above to enlarge: Scottish v England and Wales – the percentage share of grocery spend

Making sure leftovers are used up before buying more food ties in with the fact that 22% of those surveyed in Scotland say they are working on a strict budget when shopping. More than a third (36%) compare the prices of rival brands before they buy and the same proportion would buy a brand they weren’t familiar with if it was on special offer.

However, Scots do appear to be happy to spend more of their cash on organic food, being 9% more likely to do so than those in Britain as a whole.

The average spend per shopper on fruit and vegetables is also higher in Scotland than south of the border, with an average of £6.40 more being spent per year compared with the average increase across Britain, which is £4.70.

This is a genuine increase because the price of fruit or vegetables in Scotland is the same as for the rest of Britain, the report notes.

This is partly as a result of efforts by the Scottish government to encourage healthy eating in children, says Thomson. Fruit is particularly popular with kids, with 23% of fruit being eaten because it is “a favourite”, up from 15% in 2010. Children also consumed 11 million more servings of fruit last year than they did in 2010.

However, Scots also spend a greater percentage on soft drinks, alcohol and biscuits than those in England and Wales, according to the study. Alcohol accounts for 12.7% of the grocery spend in Scotland – a higher proportion than the rest of Britain – but Thomson notes: “This is not because Scots are a bunch of alcoholics, it is more because the mix of products they buy is different to England and Wales. Spirits account for a greater proportion of Scottish consumers’ spend within the mix of alcohol than they do elsewhere, so it is more about price points.”

He adds that retailers definitely recognise that Scotland has its own purchasing habits. “Tesco and Sainsbury’s have local supplier days where they attract the supply base in Scotland and Northern Ireland, while companies such as Aldi are putting a lot more emphasis on sourcing meat and fresh produce locally.”

In terms of products themselves, heritage is important to Scottish shoppers, notes Thomson, with whisky being the classic success story, and biscuits and preserves also doing well.


Baxters soup, Nairn’s oatcakes and the soft drink Irn Bru are popular Scottish products that are also doing well in the rest of Britain. Smaller brands such as Mackie’s preserves and Dean’s shortbread are also increasing their presence in the major supermarkets, although they have to rely on being seen on the shelves rather than running big budget marketing campaigns.

Thomson adds that manufacturers should consider the differences in Scottish shopping habits compared with the rest of Britain. “Branded manufacturers in Scotland need to have more of a perception of the market, how shoppers are behaving, the way people are shopping their category and the equity the brand brings to the retailer. That will definitely help brands in Scotland become more competitive on a national level.”

On the flipside, those manufacturers based in the south of England could do more to consider Scotland, Thomson claims. Kraft states that it does not differentiate between Scotland and the rest of Britain, but with the grocery market in Scotland alone worth £9.2bn – up 2.9% in the 12 months to January 2012 – they would do well to focus more on this lucrative market.

The frontline


Laura Stewart, head of Soil Association Scotland

It is encouraging to see in this research that consumers in Scotland are moving in the right direction and choosing more fruit and veg.

However, obesity figures are rising north of the border and there is still a health gap, especially in the more deprived areas.

Our major initiative is the Food for Life programme and catering mark, which was launched in 2009. It is an independent endorsement of the good food available on menus. There is a bronze, silver and gold level so caterers can make more progress towards using more fresh and local food, and more organic produce.

The research says that fruit is a favourite on school lunch menus, but it has to be presented properly. We have seen examples where kids get presented with a huge apple or a hairy kiwi fruit that they don’t know what to do with. They are happy to eat fruit if it is prepared in a way that is approachable.

Suzie Carlaw


Marketing controller, Quality Meat Scotland

Our research matches the statistics that show a bias towards products that have heritage or are made locally. The big difference is that north of the border, people say local is from Scotland, whereas in England and Wales it tends to be more within a 30-mile radius.

Local is important, but when you think about things like beef, consumers are also very interested in animal welfare, standards of production and value for money.

Beef is expensive and people want to have the assurance that there is good animal welfare and traceability. They don’t necessarily want the cheapest option.

Parts of Scotland are very rural, so the local butcher and stores play much more of a part in people’s shopping habits. The logistics and layout of Scotland dictates that we make more frequent trips to shops than in England and Wales and have smaller basket sizes.

Our brand awareness of the Scotch Beef, Lamb or Pork marks is 96% for Scotch Beef in Scotland and about 45% in Greater London. We tend to do a lot more in-store marketing in Scotland than in England. For example, we use brand ambassadors who suggest recipes.

For our Greater London campaign, we used data from Kantar and Experian that allowed us to be a lot more targeted than just going for the usual ABC1 housewife aged 45-plus. We now buy billboards on commuter routes into London that match where our target audience lives.

Latest from Marketing Week


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and inspiration that will help you develop as a marketer and leader.

Register and receive the best content from the only title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work, so we can make Marketing Week more relevant to you.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team and columnists will ask the biggest questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we will be your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Dedicated to developing your skills and helping you achieve marketing excellence. Find guidance on leadership, professional development and the latest industry jobs.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3711 or email

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here