Industry News

Study: Sustainability is Key When Making Food Purchasing Decisions

American consumers are willing to pay more for locally produced foods and want companies to provide more sustainable food options, according to a new study conducted by Cone Communications Research, Boston.

The study, 2014 Cone Communications Food Issues Trend Tracker, shows that family satisfaction reigns supreme (97%) and shoppers consider health and nutrition (93%) and sustainability (77%) important factors when deciding what foods to buy. A number of specific health and sustainability issues rose to the top as most important when hitting the grocery aisles, including food safety (93%) and nutritional value (92%).

But, at least two-thirds of Americans prioritize a variety of other issues as significant factors in deciding what makes it into the shopping cart, including:

• 74% locally produced
• 69% sustainable packaging
• 69% animal welfare
• 67% non-GMO
• 65% protects and renews natural resources

Consumers are willing to pay more to eat local
Nearly nine out of 10 Americans (89%) consider where a product is produced when making food purchasing decisions, and two-thirds (66%) would pay more for food that is produced close to home. Although locally sourced food provides environmental, economic and health benefits, consumers state supporting local businesses (64%) is the primary reason for buying local.

Other motives include:

• 39% believes the taste and quality of the product is better
• 31% has more trust in the standards for locally produced foods than other regions or countries
• 28% believes the products are healthier
• 26% thinks it's better for the environment when food doesn't travel as far

Americans' convictions are so strong in their commitment to purchase locally produced foods that nearly half (46%) would sacrifice variety to do so.

"As the local food movement goes mainstream, it's not just about the 'mom and pop shop' or farm stand. Even large companies have a role to talk about where they source food and the respective impacts on local communities," says Alison DaSilva, executive vice president, Cone Communications. "Using local as a broader value proposition helps companies of all sizes talk about the social and environmental benefits of responsible sourcing."

Americans seek sustainable food options to help the world and themselves
More than eight in 10 Americans (83%) consider sustainability when buying food and would like to see more options available that protect the environment (81%). Their motivations span from the altruistic to the self-serving, including:

• 43% of Americans want to do their part to protect and preserve the environment
• 39% believes the quality and taste is better
• 38% wants to show their support for companies who are doing the right thing
• 27% believes the products are healthier

Consumers look to companies to help them understand the broader implications of their food purchasing decisions, with nearly three-quarters (74%) stating they want companies to do a better job explaining how their purchases impact the environment.

"Although consumers are shopping with an eye toward sustainability, they are equally motivated by personal needs and a desire to improve society," says Liz Gorman, senior vice president of sustainable business practices, Cone Communications. "Messaging must be two-fold. Companies must clearly demonstrate the impact consumers' purchases are having on the environment, while reinforcing health, taste and quality attributes."

GMO confusion persists
Despite all of the GMO movements coming to surface, consumers are still generally confused about GMOs and look to companies for information. Eighty-four percent of consumers want companies to disclose information and educate them on GMOs in products because more than half (55%) say they don't know whether GMOs are good or bad for them.

Despite this confusion, three in five Americans are on the lookout for non-GMO-labeled foods when shopping. Reasons include:

• 39% believes non-GMO foods are healthier
• 32% worries about the effects on the environment
• 24% questions the ethics behind the use of GMOs

"The GMO debate is dominating media and social channels," says Gorman. "Consumers are confused, and the onus is on companies to help them understand GMOs and be transparent about if and how GMOs are used in the products they are buying."

Americans rely on friends and family in making food purchasing decisions
It's no surprise Americans are most influenced by those closest to them when it comes to food purchasing decisions, with spouse or partner (45%), friends (27%) and kids (19%) topping the list. Yet, food companies and healthcare providers (16%) are close behind as the next most influential sources of information. Americans are not only choosing who they listen to but also when they access information, with 43% of consumers accessing information online throughout the day.

"Today's food and beverage companies have an opportunity to connect with consumers on the issues they care about, with the people they trust, in the channels where they are," DaSilva says. "The days of empty claims and blanketed approaches to marketing to consumers are over; consumers want to know their favorite food brands understand their unique needs and what matters most to them."

Women and Millennials take a stance on food issues
There's no question women are the most thoughtful and empathetic consumers on a variety of health and sustainability issues, and although both men and women are shopping with sustainability and local in mind, women are more likely to do so for selfless reasons:

• Women are more likely to consider sustainability because they want to do their part to protect the environment (50% vs. 36% of men), while men are more motivated by taste and quality (41% vs. 38% of women).
• Women are more passionate about local food options.

They are more likely to pay more (73% vs. 60% of men) and will sacrifice variety to eat local (52% vs. 38% of men).

Millennials, ages 18-24, have a somewhat different take on the most important health and sustainability food issues. Beyond food safety and nutrition, other priorities include:

• 72% protect and renew natural resources (vs. 65% U.S. average)
• 66% organic (vs. 52% U.S. average) • 66% supports a social issue and/or charity (vs. 49% U.S. average)
• 61% locally produced (vs. 74% U.S. average)

"Grocery shopping decisions no longer hinge on price and taste alone. Consumers worry about where their food is made, what's in it and how it affects the environment," says DaSilva. "The stakes are higher for companies to not only provide food options that meet consumers' modern needs but [also to] communicate attributes in a clear and transparent way."

About the research
The 2014 Cone Communications Food Issues Trend Tracker presents the findings of an online survey conducted Feb. 3-6 by global market research firm ORC International, Princeton, N.J., among a demographically representative sample of 1,003 adults, comprising 500 men and 503 women 18 years of age and older. The margin of error associated with a sample of this size is +/- 3% at a 95% level of confidence. Some figures may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

Did you enjoy this article? Click here to subscribe to Refrigerated & Frozen Foods magazine.

You must login or register in order to post a comment.

Multimedia

Videos

Image Galleries

OSI, 2014 Refrigerated Foods Processor of the Year

Find out how this global food provider secured a new supply chain global trading platform, opened a new culinary innovation center and continues to keep food safety top of mind.

Read cover story here.
Read plant story here.

7/31/14 12:00 pm EDT

Engaging the Manufacturing Workforce to Drive Business Improvement

AIOE’s Workforce Development Solutions Group will soon release its work product, “The Engagement Framework”. This is a robust resource tool that both CPGs and suppliers should find useful in their organizations. Attendees will learn of the key attributes of Engagement, and cases and lessons learned on how to apply these guiding lessons within your company. The value proposition is fundamental to business success in our industry: business performance, competitive globally, recruitment and retention.

Processors On The Rise...

What aspects of an up-and-coming company are most important for it to become successful in the cold food marketplace?
View Results Poll Archive

Refrigerated and Frozen Foods Magazine

CoverImage

2014 September

Refrigerated & Frozen Foods' September 2014 issue features the six Processors to Watch in 2015 and the Cold Storage Construction Guide.

Table Of Contents Subscribe

The Refrigerated and Frozen Food Store

ColdPackagingMaterialsGuide_products
Cold Packaging Materials Guide

A guide to cold packaging containers and materials.

More Products

Refrigerated & Frozen Foods Delivers

RFF Infographic 133x133Click here to see a snapshot of the many different ways Refrigerated & Frozen Foods delivers business and technology solutions to cold chain professionals.

Buyer's Guide

Visit our Buyer's Guide!

Refrigerated & Frozen Foods offers a Cold Packaging Materials Guide, as well as a Cold Storage Warehouse Guide, the most comprehensive listing of cold storage warehouses.

Visit the Buyer's Guide page today!

STAY CONNECTED

facebook_2014 twitter_40px youtube_40pxlinkedin_40px