“Only 13% of older consumers said that they look for organic food and 35% report that they look for healthy food options. By contrast, 38% of those aged 55 and over told Canadean that they were looking for ‘natural’ food,” said Catherine O’Connor, analyst from Canadean.
The survey of 2000 UK consumers aged 18 and over found that the need for natural food rose with age. Of those aged 25 to 34, 22% said they look for ‘natural food’ compared to 26% of 35 to 44 year-olds. One third of the consumers aged 45 to 54 showed interest in ‘natural’ food, and 38% of those aged 55 and over.
“However, young adults also showed above average interest in ‘natural’ food, with 29% of those aged 18 to 24 responding positively,” O’Connor told Food Navigator.
Natural v Organic
According to the report, 60% of those who looked for natural food did it in search of healthier food options.
“Older consumers often see ‘natural’ as a byword for ‘organic’, ‘healthy’, ‘fresh’ and ‘wholesome’. However, there are no regulatory criteria when it comes to the term ‘natural’, which leaves manufacturers more open to put the label ‘natural’ on their product,” said O’Connor.
By contrast, to gain the ‘organic’ label, products have to be produced using no synthetic pesticides or additive. In addition the farming methods have promote ecological balance and conserve biodiversity.
“When we asked consumers about their dietary habits, we purposely avoided defining the term ‘natural’, meaning that the respondents were defining it for themselves. The resulting overlap in the use of the terms ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ proves that many consumers are confused about the exact meaning of those labels,” said O’Connor.
“Companies can aim to provide education on the difference between these claims (for example in their marketing or via online support), however the perceived overlap between the terms also presents opportunities,” she added.
O’ Connor also pointed out that while simplifying nutritional labels the manufacturers have to make sure they keep product claims transparent. Meanwhile marketers have to ensure all of those claims are credible and reliable in order to avoid scepticism and product devaluation in consumer’s eyes.
Other health claims
Canadean’s findings show that older consumers were increasingly wary of overly-processed food.
“Products marketed as ‘natural’ are currently more successful among older consumers than products featuring more explicit health claims. This is because older consumers think that ‘natural’ products are made with care and craftsmanship, whereas they fear that foods marketed around health alone may involve a sacrifice in taste that they are not eager to make,” said O’Connor.