University study tracks consumer preferences home, away from home
Compared to one year ago, willingness-to-pay is higher for all food products.
Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Okla., released its latest Food Demand Survey, FooDS, which tracks consumer preferences and sentiments on the safety, quality and price of food at home and away from home, with particular focus on meat demand. This online survey interviewed a sample size of at least 1,000 individuals, weighted to match the U.S. population in terms of age, gender, education and region of residence.
After a 3-month slide, willingness-to-pay increased for all food products in July, according to the survey. There were sizeable increases in willingness-to-pay for meat products from June to July; steak willingness-to-pay increased 46.44% and deli ham willingness-to-pay increased 33.15%. In July, willingness-to-pay for steak reached its highest point since FooDS began in May 2013.
Compared to one year ago, willingness-to-pay is higher for all food products. Expenditures on food eaten at home increased 1.5% from June to July, and expenditures on food purchased away from home increased 6.34%. Compared to last month, consumers expect slightly higher prices for all meat products. Plans to eat out more than roughly doubled compared to last month, with plans to buy chicken, beef and pork increasing.
Awareness and concern
GMOs, Salmonella and E. coli remained the most visible issues in the news over the past two weeks. The largest percent increase in awareness over the last month was for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). The largest percent decrease in awareness over the last month was for E. coli and GMOs. Salmonella, E. coli and farm animal welfare ranked as the Top 3 concerns in July. This was the first time that farm animal welfare ranked in the Top 3 issues of concern since the beginning of FooDS.
Concern increased for all issues over the past month. The largest percent increase in concern was for gestation crates and greenhouse gases.
General food values
Taste, safety and nutrition ranked as consumers’ most important values when purchasing food this month.
Consumers’ food values remained similar to those in past months, with a slight decrease in perceived value of safety and nutrition and an increase in perceived value of animal welfare and naturalness. Similar to previous months, consumers reported that their main challenge was finding affordable foods that fit within their budget. Avoiding pesticides, added hormones and antibiotics was the challenge experiencing the largest percentage decrease. In July, 12.68% of participants reported having food poisoning, a 68.39% increase from one month ago.
First, participants were asked: “The U.S. Congress is considering a bill that would require food companies to disclose whether a food contains genetically engineered ingredients. Food companies can comply by placing text on packaging, provide a QR code or by directing consumers to a phone number or website. Do you support or oppose this legislation?”
Approximately 81% of respondents stated they would support the bill. Less than 7% of respondents said they would oppose the bill, and just over 12% of respondents stated “I don’t know.”
Second, participants were asked: “Where do you tend to receive the most helpful and accurate information about food health and safety issues? (pick one issue)” The survey listed 14 different sources.
About 17% of participants stated local television news as their most helpful and accurate information source, while 11.65% of respondents said evening or nightly television news shows were the most helpful. Only 2.54% of participants listed books are their most helpful source of information. 5.37% of participants stated “other” as their most helpful source of information. Those who selected “other” gave examples such as “NatrualNews.com,” “my own online research,” “Institute of Food Technologists’ mailing list,” “local highly educated farmer” and “internet.”
Last, respondents were asked: “Where do you tend to receive the least helpful and inaccurate information about food health and safety issues? (pick one)” The same 14 sources were listed as in the previous question.
About 27% of participants stated that social media was the least helpful and inaccurate source of information about food health and safety issues, while 11.53% of participants stated that restaurant servers or chefs were the least helpful and inaccurate source of information. Friends and family was ranked third, with 10.06% of participants, and 1.63% of participants selected “other” as their least helpful and inaccurate source of information. Those who stated other, listed examples such as “internet news,” “nurses,” “family who think they know,” “Youtube” and “Packaging.”