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News & Media: Staff Columns

What customers want: Food labels and purchase intent

Monday, October 22, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Lauren Brey, director of marketing and research
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Food labels have been around for a long time, and their role has evolved through the years. From keeping out harmful ingredients and accurately listing contents to today’s purpose of enhancing lifestyles, customers use food labels to make purchase decisions.

While food labels are important to relay information, 75 percent of customers do not trust food labels, according to research done by Label Insight. Thirty-five percent admit they are sometimes confused by what the labels on food packages are saying.

“Our relationship with food has evolved over time and will never be the same,” said Mark Gale, CEO and partner at Charleston|Orwig. He presented the findings of two surveys at the Animal Ag Alliance Stakeholders Summit in Arlington, Va.

Food label survey

The food label survey revealed that 63 percent of customers believe food/beverage label information is very or extremely important. Nutrition remains the most important label of all.

Customers want the following information to be easy to find:

  • Nutritional information (71 percent)
    • Only 29 percent feel manufacturers are doing a good job of providing desired information.
  • Where product is made (45.5 percent)
  • Ingredient sourcing (44 percent)
  • Allergen information (39.5 percent)

Following with less importance were product benefits, information on growers, employees and production sources, company practices and values, and company background or story.

Meat/protein food label survey

On the meat/protein food label survey, customers were asked about food labels that increase purchase intent. Locally raised topped the list at 26.2 percent followed by natural at 24.5 percent. Combined, 53 percent of customers are more likely to purchase a product if it has a locally raised or natural label.

Antibiotic free, non-GMO and organic were in the 20 percent range. Hormone-free, grass-fed, cage-free and free-range were all below 20 percent.

Forty-nine percent of those selecting more than one label selected more than three, indicating customers are not one-dimensional.

Fifty-two percent of customers surveyed indicated that “no antibiotics ever” or “antibiotic-free” labels have a moderate to high impact.

Forty-nine percent of customers surveyed said “humanely raised” or “animal welfare certified” labels have a moderate to high impact on purchase intent.

Regarding lab-grown meat, fifty-two percent said “I don’t trust it” while 43.8 percent said it is not natural. An interesting and reassuring finding for agriculture was that 36.5 percent of those surveyed said lab-grown meats hurt farmers who grow animals. Only 13.4 percent said they have no reservations about trying it.

A key takeaway from this research is that customers’ changing relationship with food is impacting information needs and demands.

Nutrition is critical label information, but the definition of nutrition is changing for modern customers. For example, the focus has shifted from weight management to foods that make you “feel good” to today’s trend of functional foods with protein, antioxidants and other components.

We need to care about the customer’s needs. Agriculture and the food industry must continue to innovate rapidly to meet the changing needs and desires of our customers to remain relevant.


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