In 2014, the Local Food Programme and the trueflavours.fi website produced a joint local food survey in different parts of Finland. Questions tackled what local food is and where people want to buy it.
Answers to the survey were collected at the Local & Organic Food Fair at the Helsinki Expo & Convention Centre on 11–13 April, at the OKRA farming exhibition in Oripää on 2–5 July, at the Herkkujen Suomi event in Rautatientori in Helsinki on 21–23 August, at the Elonkorjuu event in Kuopio on 29–30 August and at the Slow Food Festival in Fiskars on 4–5 October. A total of 1,151 responses were received. This large an amount of responses provides indicative results, although not everyone answered all the questions and some had selected more than one answer to some questions.
Awareness of the trueflavours.fi website still needs a great deal of improvement. On average 75% of respondents had not visited the trueflavours.fi website. Awareness of the website was lowest in Fiskars and Kuopio. A third of respondents want to use the trueflavours.fi website to find information on places where they can buy local and organic food and about the range of products businesses sell. 44% of respondents at OKRA wanted to find information about the range of products available from businesses, which is more than at any other event. A quarter of respondents wanted to see the location of businesses on a map. About one in ten respondents also wanted information about food tourism.
In the view of respondents, local food is food produced in their own region and using ingredients from their own region. This is the view of the majority of respondents, in other words an average approximately 45%. At OKRA and Herkkujen Suomi, almost half of respondents were of this opinion. At the Local & Organic Food Fair, at OKRA and in Kuopio, a third also answered that local food means Finnish food. In Fiskars, 21% of respondents saw local food as food made in their own region, whose ingredients could come from elsewhere. When asked what local food is, in Kuopio and in Fiskars there was support for food based on the food traditions of the local area. It must be borne in mind that in responses Finnish food and food made from ingredients from one’s own region can mean the same thing.
In all the survey locations apart from Fiskars, there was a desire to buy local food from markets or from local shops close to home. These responses were particularly high at events held in Helsinki and at OKRA. In Fiskars, 27% answered that they would prefer to buy local food straight from the farm, local shops came second and supermarkets only third. For respondents at OKRA, “straight from the farm” came second with supermarkets coming in first place, followed by local shops and local food shops. In Kuopio, 22% of respondents wanted to buy straight from the farm. Food co-ops were slightly more popular than internet shopping but the response rate was about 5% for both. Those who gave supermarkets or local shops as their preferred source also answered straight from the farm and from local food shops and of these the latter response was particularly from respondents in the Helsinki area. On this basis, it can be judged that in a more rural environment buying from farms feels more natural while there have been local food shops in the Helsinki area for longer and they have, therefore, become familiar.
Consumers would like to see local food better labelled in shops. There is a desire for local food labels on packaging but almost just as many respondents wanted to see information shown on the shelves. There was also a certain amount of demand for additional information such as leaflets provided near to products. No one was particularly interested in using new technology yet, as the use of QR codes only received a few individual mentions. Many challenges still remain when it comes to finding local food, as a clear more than half answered that “you can find it but you have to know where to look” and about a third “I can’t really find it although I would like to”.