According to a consumer survey, commissioned by ingredients manufacturer Beneo, consumers are paying more attention to what goes into their food, motivated by the desire to make healthier dietary decisions.
The study surveyed the opinions of 3,000 consumers from the UK, Germany and the US with the aim of providing insights into shoppers’ product choices and their preferred ingredients when buying cleaner label products.
What is in a name?
When shopping for a new product, a large proportion of consumers are likely to analyse it’s ingredients rather than buying on brand alone, the survey discovered.
The results suggest that women are more likely to prioritise ingredients than men but Beneo suggested that men are also likely to look at the ingredients list meaning that the healthier eating message is not gender specific.
Consumers were asked: when shopping for a new product, what do you usually read on the packaging?
- Ingredients list: a total of 51% selected this as the post important attribute
- The brand: overall, 45% of consumers said this motivated purchase
- The product description: 49% of consumers responded that this informs what new products they select
“Clean label has been a topic of great interest to consumers over recent years. Our research results show that ingredients lists are powerful purchasing motivators for consumers and can even be more important than the actual brand of the product,” commented Myriam Snaet, head of market intelligence and consumer insights at Beneo.
Consumers equate ‘natural’ with ‘healthy’
The study also concluded that consumers tend to believe that products described as ‘natural’ are also healthy.
When they were asked what characteristics they expected from a natural product, 59% expected a natural product ‘to be healthy’. The majority, 53%, also expected it to be free from GMO.
Other attributes consumers associate with naturalness include a ‘pure’ taste (44%), safety (40%) and low in sugar (39%).
So what is ‘natural’?
A natural product, consumers included in the survey suggested, is one that does not contain additives and artificial ingredients.
To put this to the test, the researchers presented participants with three different tomato sauce ingredients lists. One contained modified corn starch, one contained rice starch and one contained an e-number. The vast majority of respondents (73%) chose the product containing rice starch over modified corn starch (19%). Just 8% opted for the product containing an e-number.
The study also put a variety of clean label claims front of pack, again using tomato sauce as an example. The most popular was ‘no preservatives/made with natural ingredients’, with 56% of consumers saying it was both natural and had a clear, understandable label.
‘Take clean eating seriously’
Commenting on the research findings, Snaet warned that food makers need to take note of the importance consumers place on clean eating. “This focus on ingredients could encourage product switching if manufacturers don’t take consumers’ desires to eat more cleanly seriously,” she suggested.
“The research also shows that consumers combine the words ‘natural’ and ‘healthy’ and as such, food and drink producers need to ensure that the ingredients they are putting on the label are seen by consumers to be ingredients that they can relate to in a positive way.”
Beneo, the functional ingredients arm of sugar group Südzucker, carried out the research in support of its newly launched clean label rice starch, Remypure S52. Snaet said this ingredient is “well placed” to help manufacturers create “unique textures and excellent product stability, even under harsh processing conditions".
According to the survey, when the characteristics of key starch and flour ingredients (rice, corn, potato, tapioca and wheat) were compared, rice came out on top as ‘a cupboard ingredient’ (67%), ‘healthy’ (58%) and ‘easy to digest’ (51%).