No matter their purpose or origin, unfamiliar ingredients on food labels like sodium benzoate, lecithin and methionine and concerns about their impact on health are why more consumers are diligent about eliminating artificial ingredients and processed foods from their diets. In fact, new research from The Center for Food Integrity (CFI), Kansas City, Mo., shows these clean eaters fear being duped by “big food,” and are motivated to do everything in their power to control their health.

“Out are boxed meals, pre-packaged meats and chips,” says Terry Fleck, executive director. “In are preparing meals from fresh ingredients and buying products free from added preservatives, as these consumers will do everything in their power to enhance health and wellness in hopes of living long, healthy lives.”  

There currently are more than 36.1 million U.S. consumers, just shy of one in five, actively engaged on the topic of packaged food and chemical additives, as shown by CFI’s Illuminate digital research tool that analyzes millions of interactions online in real time. This segment of the population is expected to grow 5.3% over the next two years.  

These consumers are deeply motivated to have total control over their consumption, and not have corporations, governments, brands or friends take that control away, according to the research.  

“They are particularly leery of big corporations ‘tricking’ them into buying unhealthy products,” says Fleck. “This finding speaks to the ‘big is bad’ bias that we see in our research year after year. Consumers believe big food will put profit over public interest every time.”

This is a group that is progressive, seeks a higher meaning in life and is motivated to tell others about their food choices, so “it’s an important group to engage,” Fleck adds.

The core market is white, middle-class individuals between the ages of 25-44. The segment predominantly includes couples, either with or without children. They range in education level—high school education (25%), technical degree (34%) and college education (29%). Only 12% have an advanced college degree.

“They do feel that if traditional food products are modernized through better sourcing, manufacturing and distribution, they can be made to taste better while offering better health outcomes,” says Fleck.

When it comes to information, they tend to seek content on wellness, health, lifestyle and nutrition habits from bloggers who focus on cooking naturally, without chemicals, preservatives and man-made additives.

“This is a highly independent group that doesn’t want to give in to societal pressure,” says Fleck.