Two years ago, 85% of Australians were more likely to by domestically made food—a figure that has since grown to 88%.
In contrast, only 6% now say that they’d be more likely to buy food labelled “Made in China”—this almost unchanged from 5% in 2013. This minority group tends to have quite distinct attitudes to food, especially when compared to the Australia-made majority.
Compared to those who are more likely to buy food labelled “Made in Australia”, those who are more likely to choose Chinese-made foods are less likely to be concerned about whether food is fattening, genetically modified or additive-free.
They are also more likely to buy frozen or chilled ready-made meals, takeaway food, and to avoid dairy products when possible.
Australians who agree that they would be more likely to buy products manufactured in China tend generally to be aged at the younger end of the spectrum.
This trend is strikingly evident when it comes to food: Australians aged under-35 are dramatically more likely than their older counterparts to buy a food product if it is labelled “Made in China”.
However, it is worth noting that even among the under-35s, food labelled Australian-made is far more popular overall, with its popularity rising among people aged 35 and older.
“We’ve been aware for some time that younger Australians tend to be more open to buying products made in countries other than Australia,” said Michele Levine, chief executive of Roy Morgan Research, which carried out the study.
Growing up in the digital age, the younger generation is used to having the international marketplace at their fingertips, courtesy of online retailers, Levine added.
“Products manufactured in China are often considerably cheaper than goods made in many other countries, including Australia—an added incentive for young people who may still be studying or earning a low wage.
Coming developments will be interesting
Among the small percentage of Australians who are more likely to buy food if it’s labelled ‘Made in China’, certain attitudes towards food stand out.
“These same attitudes, from ‘I often buy takeaway food to eat at home’ to ‘I avoid dairy foods wherever possible’, are also more widespread among Aussies aged under 35 than those aged 35+.”
The research also showed that the country where a consumer was born has some bearing on their attitudes to goods manufactured in different countries, and the study data shows that Australians who were born in Asia are more likely than those born in Australia to buy food products labelled “Made in China”.
However, the vast majority of Asian-born Australians are still more likely to buy food made in Australia.
“It will be interesting to see whether attitudes to Chinese-manufactured food products shift in the wake of the recent hepatitis scare caused by frozen berries imported from China. Certainly, the call for clearer country-of-origin food labelling has never been more relevant,” Levine added.