In an article published on February 24, 2016 in the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) + Business blog, Tom Neltner discusses the implications of a survey on values influencing consumers’ food preferences. The survey was carried out in the U.S. by Deloitte Consulting LLP, Food Marketing Institute and the Grocery Manufacturers Association.
The survey showed that consumers’ definition of safety has expanded to include not only short-term (e.g. toxin free) but also long-term (e.g. no carcinogens) concerns. 51% of the survey respondents mentioned that, in addition to “traditional drivers” of taste, price, and convenience, the five “evolving drivers” – health and wellness, safety, social impact, experience, and transparency – play an increasingly important role in their food purchasing decisions. Both retailers and food producers need to adapt to their customers’ demands for “safer ingredients and improved transparency,” or else risk losing market share.
The food industry is trying to respond to these new demands, for example by providing easier access to information on product ingredients or by reformulating their brands to remove undesired components, such as artificial flavors or synthetic colors. However, these efforts are not enough and do not “address the heart of [consumers’] concerns,” Neltner writes. He points out that “just because something sounds natural and is legal does not mean it is safe,” with this referring to the “Generally Recognized As Safe” (GRAS) rule that regulates some food additives in the U.S.. Neltner claims that this “legal loophole” has allowed many chemicals to be used as food ingredients or in food manufacture or packaging processes, although their safety has not been assured by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). He concludes with a claim that retailers and brand owners must request that all ingredients used in food be reviewed by the FDA before a product is sold.
Tom Neltner (February 24, 2016). “Consumers’ changing views on food safety, and the opportunity for action.” EDF + Business
Jack Ringquist (January 25, 2016). “Research uncovers consumer values influencing food decisions.” Deloitte Consulting LLP
Deloitte Consulting LLP (January 25, 2016). “Capitalizing on the shifting consumer food value equation.” (pdf)