New Study Reveals Consumers Want Greater Say in Key Food Issues
By Year 2020, Food Companies Will Be Expected To Cede Control, But Retain Responsibility for Health, Well-being
alicia [dot] stetzer [at] ketchum [dot] com (alicia [dot] stetzer [at] ketchum [dot] com)
San Francisco, Oct. 16, 2008 – Today’s consumers want to have a greater say about food ingredients, safety and quality, and by the year 2020, consumers around the globe expect the way they choose and shop for food to be different, according to a recent study of consumers in five countries.
The study, called Food 2020: The Consumer as CEO, examined the perceptions, expectations and considerations about food among consumers in the U.S., the U.K., Germany, Argentina and China, and sought to provide an outlook on the food industry by the year 2020.
At least half of the 1,000 consumers surveyed said they want more consumer involvement in the use of ingredients and additives; the source of ingredients and the treatment of animals; nutritional content; and who should be responsible for food safety and quality. With the exception of China, only one-third or fewer consumers were interested in being involved in making food easier to prepare or shop for.
“Food companies often ask consumers about food preparation and convenience, but the areas where consumers want more control are the ones where food companies are least likely to seek consumer input,” said Linda Eatherton, Partner and Director of Ketchum’s Global Food & Nutrition Practice, which commissioned the survey. “These survey results indicate that food companies are asking the wrong questions.”
The survey findings also reveal that consumers around the world expect food companies to be responsible for their health and well-being and that this expectation will continue into the year 2020. Along with this finding and their interest in providing more input on critical food issues, consumers also expect the way they shop for and choose foods to be different by 2020. Among all countries, 75% of consumers said they would like to see food companies place a great emphasis on creating foods that reduce the risk of major health issues in the future.
“Consumers want more information about ingredients and health benefits from both supermarkets and restaurants,” said Supermarket Guru Phil Lempert, who worked with Ketchum to develop the survey and analyze the data. “Food companies should be aware of these expectations as they focus on product development in the future.”
Other Key Findings
- Taste, quality and price are the top consideration in choosing foods – except in China, where health benefits are most important. Among all of the countries surveyed, 74% of consumers cited taste as a key consideration, but China gave taste the least consideration, with 69% of consumers choosing it. In China, 78% of consumers said “health benefits” were a key consideration, compared to just 53% of respondents from all countries.
- Knowledge, taste and availability are key barriers to healthier eating. When asked what factors, besides cost, prevent them from buying healthier foods, 44% of consumers cited “knowing what’s truly healthy”; 43% cited taste; and 35% cited availability.Consumers in Germany, Argentina and China were more likely to cite knowledge as a barrier, while consumers in the U.S. and China were more likely to cite taste. The top barrier cited in the U.K. was availability.
- Consumers want good taste, but they also want to know more about their food. In all countries surveyed, 63% of consumers want to be able to recognize all of the ingredients on a food label; 34% want foods to be made with as few ingredients as possible. Concern about what’s on the label is highest in Argentina, where 73% of consumers said they want to be able to recognize all the ingredients. Consumers in China were least concerned about recognizing ingredients, though still more than half (52%) want to.
- Brands are losing their relevance – except in Argentina and China. Only one-third of consumers cited “brand name” as among the factors they consider when buying food. Brand name lagged well behind factors such as quality, price, health benefits, value, convenience of preparation and, of course, taste. In both Argentina and China, 45% of consumers said brand was a key factor.
- Consumers want local food, but they’re not willing to pay for it – in terms of either cost or taste. Two-thirds (66%) of consumers think at least some of their foods are from other countries . . . but just 17% of consumers said they “don’t care where food comes from” as long as it’s affordable and tastes good. Consumers in Argentina were the most likely to care about food sourcing, with more than 60% disagreeing with the idea that taste and cost trump where food comes from. Consumers in China are the least concerned about sourcing, with at least 30% agreeing that they “don’t care where food comes from” as long as it’s affordable and tastes good.
- Consumers want food companies to help solve societal issues related to food and nutrition, and they are willing to pay for it – within reason. Globally, more than 40% of consumers said they would be likely to pay more for food if it would improve the quality of water and food and bring medicines to those in need. Consumers in China and Argentina generally are more willing to pay for food if it could help others around the world. Sixty-five (65%) of consumers surveyed said that “improving human nutrition” would be their top priority if they were CEO of a global food company; “making food that is safer” would be a close second (64%); and “making foods that taste great” would the third-highest priority (52%).
- Consumers want food companies to take away the temptations that lead to obesity . . . but they don’t want to eat less. Forty-five percent (45%) of consumers think food companies should play a role in addressing obesity, with more than half of those in Argentina and the U.K. holding this view. And 63% of consumers believe food companies should help reduce obesity by decreasing junk foods; while just 21% think companies should reduce portion sizes to address this issue. Fifty-six percent of consumers think companies should help reduce the risk of major health issues and disease by making foods with more nutrients per calorie. Consumers in Germany and China were more likely to think that food companies should try to reduce health risks by linking good food choices with lower healthcare costs.
- Consumers expect how they choose and shop for food to be different by 2020 . . . but they still expect food companies to be responsible for their health and well-being. Forty-three percent of consumers believe that the kinds of foods we eat in the year 2020 will be different than what we eat today; 39% believe the way we shop for food will be different; 56% of consumers would like to see the food industry come up with easier ways to identify healthy foods on restaurant menus; and 53% would like restaurants to offer healthier foods. While 78% of consumers say they would like to get their foods from local farms or companies by the year 2020, most expect even more of their foods will come from other countries by then – with 34% of consumers expecting “most” or “all” of their food to be imported by 2020, compared to 21% who think “most” or “all” of their food is imported today.
About the Survey
The survey polled 1,000 consumers in the U.S., the U.K., Germany, Argentina and China and included 200 respondents from each country. Among respondents in China, half resided in cities and the other half resided outside of cities. The margin of error for the findings is +/– 6.93 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. The survey was conducted through online distribution at various times in each country, with all taking place between the end of July 2008 through the end of August 2008.
A communications innovator, Ketchum ranks among the largest global public relations agencies, operating in more than 50 countries. With five global practices – Food and Nutrition, Brand Marketing, Corporate, Healthcare, and Technology – and specialty areas that include Food B2B (foodservice and industrial), Concentric Communications (experiential marketing, events and meetings), Ketchum Entertainment Marketing, Ketchum Global Research Network, Ketchum Sports Network, MMG (clinical trial recruitment), Stromberg Consulting (change management and workplace communications) and The Washington Group (lobbying and government relations), Ketchum leverages its marketing and corporate communications expertise to build brands and reputations for clients. For more information on Ketchum, a unit of Omnicom Group Inc. (NYSE:OMC), visit www.ketchum.com.