Are consumers reading labels? Yes they are — according to the International Food Information Council’s annual survey, Food Insight 2014, 65 percent of consumers read the Nutrition Facts Panel, second only to the number of adults that look for the expiration date (66 percent). Their attitudes towards label claims have evolved over the years. A recent talk delivered at Food Labeling: Strategic Regulatory Compliance, early in February, by Shelly McKee, Ph.D., Director of Technical Services for the American Egg Board revealed what attracts consumer buyers and what turns them off.
Food manufacturers need to pay careful attention to what they put on the label, not just due to government oversight, but also to earn and hold onto consumer trust. Only 38 percent of U.S. consumers say they trust what is on the label. (Mintel).
A full 93 percent of consumers prefer to see common names for ingredients on their labels, while 61 percent of consumers believe that a product labeled “all natural” is healthier (Mintel, 2013). This obviously creates a paradox for marketers between a stated consumer desire for natural, versus the threat of a lawsuit based on the amount of current litigation surrounding the term.
What the food manufacturing industry turns to in lieu of natural is a “clean” label, however this is an insider, industry phrase. Consumers call it something else. Regardless of the term and many have emerged — clear, simple, authentic, transparent — several surveys and studies show what the term means to the buying public.
According to a Gallup survey, U.S. adults identify clean labels as having
- All natural ingredients
- Recognizable ingredients
- No artificial preservatives
- No artificial ingredients
- No added sugar
- No high fructose corn syrup
- No MSG
The list of what they don’t want seems to outweigh what they do. There are also surveys that reveal the positive things consumers want on product labels and examples of products that capitalize on these desires. However, the list of “Nos” leads into another subsection of labeling, the “free-from” movement. We’ll examine what that means in our next blog post.