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Speaking the Language of Label-conscious Consumers

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Speaking the Language of Label-conscious Consumers

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Good news: Consumers are reading more. However, what they’re reading are labels. This isn’t bad news, but it does complicate things for food manufacturers who must react to both health-conscious consumer demand and FDA mandates for reformulation.

Increasingly, health-conscious consumers rely on their recognition (or lack thereof) of ingredients on packaging in order to influence their purchasing decisions. And as ingredients such as partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) and azodicarbonamide (ADA) grab media attention for their perceived health effects, consumers have to look out for new ingredients.

In order to understand how food labels can affect purchase decisions, Corbion recently conducted its own proprietary research on consumer behavior around buying bread, sweet baked goods and processed meat. Using two-phased methodology with both a qualitative and quantitative component, Corbion explored what clean label means and how it affects purchase behavior.

The research found that while consumers do check food labels for ingredients, nutritional information and claims to help inform their purchase decisions, it also revealed some surprising findings.


Three varieties of label readers

Three distinct shopper segments emerged during the analysis of consumers’ bread-buying behavior: ingredient-focused, nutrition-focused and less-engaged consumers.

  • Ingredient-focused consumers (33% of the respondents) skew toward being millennials. In addition, this group tends to purchase organic bread and is more likely to read the entire ingredient list. These consumers typically believe that the shorter an ingredient list, the healthier a product is.
  • Nutrition-focused consumers (43%), however, are less impacted by the length of the ingredient list and place more importance on general health and dieting. These consumers are more likely to read only the first few ingredients and are interested in bread with higher protein content and versions lower in calories, fat and sugar.
  • Less-engaged consumers (24%) are more likely to be impacted by price and tend to skip reading the ingredient list or nutrition facts panel. They’re more apt to read package claims when media or their peers focus their attention on a specific issue. This group’s composition over-indexes with baby boomers and under-indexes with millennials.


How consumers perceive food claims

While a product’s ingredients are important to health-conscious consumers, so are the health claims they carry. According to the research, nutrition-based claims matter to the most-engaged consumer segments, with both ingredient-focused and nutrition-focused consumers using them to inform their purchasing decisions.

Among ingredient-focused consumers, claims of whole grains, no artificial preservatives or additives, no artificial flavors, no artificial colors and minimal processing scored highest.

Nutrition-focused consumers ranked whole grains, no artificial preservatives/additives, all natural, no PHOs and minimal processing highest on how they valued claims.


The upside of reformulation

Brands are feeling pressure from consumers and government to produce “better-for-you” foods, but giving in to these demands may be the best thing they can do.

Consumers are often willing to pay a premium for foods they perceive to be better for them. Corbion’s research even identifies which cues may prompt different segments to consider paying more.

Ingredient-focused consumers indicate a possible willingness to pay more for 12 or fewer ingredients, all-natural ingredients and products with no preservatives.

Nutrition-focused consumers also indicated a possible willingness to pay more for products with 12 or fewer ingredients, but they value claims of reduced sugar and fat as well.

And what’s the takeaway? Marge O’Brien, senior global market insights manager at Corbion, sums it up best:

“As we have seen, drivers of purchase decisions are shifting as consumers are motivated by a desire to live healthier lifestyles. [Better-for-you] label products continue to be a growing area of interest for the consumer, providing both opportunities and challenges for suppliers and retailers.”

As O’Brien describes, this is just what the recent FDA mandate on PHOs provides for manufacturers: reformulation challenges and great opportunities to answer consumers’ demands for products they consider better for them.

You can read the full white paper about Corbion’s research – download it here. To learn more about how Corbion can help with non-PHO reformulations with drop-in functionality, contact your Corbion sales representative and inquire about ENSEMBLE™ non-PHO emulsifiers.

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