A third of Britons would continue purchasing products if their use-by dates were removed
August 11th, 2023, Janice Fernandes

A third of Britons would continue purchasing products if their use-by dates were removed

Last year, major supermarkets took significant steps to reduce food wastage by eliminating best before dates from fruits and vegetables in Britain, following a report by the government-backed Waste Resources Action Programme (Wrap). To additionally combat food waste, they have also removed use-by dates from milk, with Marks & Spencer recently joining the initiative.

We conducted a survey to understand if consumer purchasing decisions would be influenced by the presence or lack thereof of use-by dates on packaging and what would make them more comfortable purchasing these products.

Polling data shows that only 14% of all Britons would not consider purchasing products if they didn’t have use-by or expiry dates. While it would depend on the type of product for half of the consumers (50%), nearly a third of Britons would purchase any perishable product without an expiry date (31%).

Age doesn’t significantly change purchase considerations in Britain with nearly half of consumers in all age groups saying they would consider the purchase of products without use-by dates.

However, while around a third of consumers aged between 45 to 54 years (34%) would always buy products without use-by dates, slightly fewer 18-24-year-olds would say the same (27%).

Among consumers who wouldn’t consider purchasing products that do not have a use-by date, over half would be convinced to purchase a product if it was visibly of good quality (55%) or there was clear information about the product’s freshness and safety (52%).

Trust in the brand and reputation of the retailer would convince almost a third of these consumers to purchase products (31% and 32% respectively). 

Over a quarter of Britons would be convinced to purchase products without expiry dates based on the price (27%). Price is a convincing factor for more than a third of young Britons (36%) between the ages of 18 to 24 years, registering a higher share than the reputation of the retailer (29%).

Only a tenth of all Britons who wouldn’t buy perishable products without use-by dates would be convinced to do so because of recommendations from others (10%). Consumers in the age groups of 18-24 years (16%) and 25-34 years (15%) are slightly more likely to listen to recommendations but it’s still the category with the lowest percentage.

Among consumers who would consider purchasing products without use-by dates, 70% would purchase personal care products and packaged goods like canned or dry food. More than two-thirds are comfortable purchasing fresh produce (69%), while 58% give the nod to beverages.

They are less likely to buy meat and poultry and prepared meals if the packages don’t have use-by dates, with only 14% saying they would consider buying these products. However, younger consumers are markedly more likely to consider purchasing prepared meals than meat and poultry – 18-24-year-olds (16% vs 11%), 25-34-year-olds (18% vs 12%).

Seafood without expiry dates is the least likely to be purchased by all consumers with only around one in 20 (6%) saying they would consider it. This sentiment is shared by consumers across all age groups.

Supermarkets are encouraging customers to use the old-fashioned sniff test to judge whether their dairy is still drinkable. This approach resonates with approximately 17 in 20 British consumers who rely on the appearance (87%) and smell (85%) of the product to determine its freshness when use-by dates are not mentioned.

More than half suggest they would rely on storage conditions (52%), while almost two-fifths say that the manufacture date (39%) would indicate whether or not the product is safe for consumption.

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Methodology: YouGov Surveys: Serviced provides quick survey results from nationally representative or targeted audiences in multiple markets. This study was conducted online on July 17-18, 2023, with a nationally representative sample of 2,172 adults in the United States (aged 18+ years), using a questionnaire designed by YouGov. Data figures have been weighted by age, gender, education and region to be representative of all adults. Learn more about YouGov Surveys: Serviced.

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