With so many niche brands available in the food space, consumers are now looking at product labels for their purchasing decisions. A new survey by ingredient supplier Beneo found that most consumers look for clean label language and ingredients when shopping for food products.
According to the online poll, which included 3,000 participants in the US, Germany and the UK, 59 percent of consumers associated products labeled as “natural” with being healthy. Fifty-three percent of participants claimed that “natural” labeled products should not be genetically modified and 50 percent said that they are likely to be high-quality products.
However, when it comes to the term “natural,” food companies have been struggling to find a straight definition for it. This is because consumer expectations for natural products vary and the term is not specifically defined by the FDA. So, it seems that there is some miscommunication between consumers and companies when it comes to producing natural products.
For example, most food companies believe that products that do not contain artificial ingredients can be deemed as natural products. However, there are other factors the consumers associate with natural foods. About 39 percent of consumers believe that low sugar products are natural, 40 percent expect natural food products to have high food safety standards and 44 percent want such products to have a “pure” taste.
So it looks like clean label food products need to do more than just have a simplified ingredient list without artificial ingredients. Consumers are now adding more dimension to clean label foods by considering their manufacturing processes and environmental impact. This is why transparency is a top demand in the food industry as food companies are now becoming accountable for their environmental impact. In fact, according to a recent study by Label Insight and the Food Marketing Institute, 75 percent of consumers are willing to switch to a brand that provides more in-depth information on their manufacturing processes.
However, according to Beneo, the degree of a consumer’s expectation for a natural food product varies depending on the product’s category. This means that consumers are willing to overlook ingredients not considered to be “clean” in certain foods. For example, food companies who produce natural foods for kids would probably face a lot of concern among consumers because these products directly affect their children. On the other hand, some consumers would be okay with accepting less “clean” ingredients when it comes to ethical foods such as plant-based meat alternatives because they are more concerned about animal welfare.
Nevertheless, food companies must be aware that they cannot rely on their brand’s reputation for sales anymore. Now that the food space is oversaturated with a variety of niche “natural” food companies, major food manufacturers must work towards connecting with modern consumers through their values.