Drivers for consumer purchasing trends begin to shift towards healthfulness of food
Because foodies and early adopters in the consumer population are actively seeking information, Roxi Beck of the Center for Food Integrity says, “Making sure our communications are tied to them not only from a values standpoint but also in what channels we use is important.”
By matching the values of people in the food-producing segment to those of consumers and communicating messages on the platforms target groups are using, Beck explains communication can be stronger and more impactful.
In crafting messages about the food industry, Beck encourages people to ask several questions.
“First of all, do we have a philosophy when it comes to communicating affordable and healthy food? Is this truly important to the organization, and do we have a strategy around it?” she asks, adding whether we are connected to target audience and who the right messenger should be should also be asked.
Additionally, Beck says the people who deliver the message to consumers should be people within the business who care about the subject matter and relate at a high level to both the topic and target audience because their lives are similar. She further suggests utilizing parents and people who are sensitive to nutritional data or food affordability may be good candidates.
Using consumer surveys, the Center for Food Integrity analyzes how the population feels about the food industry, finding 42 percent of people believe the food industry is headed in the right direction, 24 percent doesn’t like what they are seeing and 35 percent haven’t made up their mind.
“We don’t know the rationale behind why people think these things, but some of our other questions can help us tease out this information,” Beck explains. “In general, it’s nice to know that 42 percent of the population believes we’re moving in the right direction.”
Additionally, Beck notes research related to attitudes around food resulted in slight decreases in positivity from past research, further adding that the research firm they work with noticed a similar decline in attitude from American consumers in every industry this year.
“Consumer sentiment is decreased across the board this year, but we don’t have the rationale as to why every research project had a downturn,” she says.
A sustained trend over a long term is the idea that food grown organically is more healthful, with 37 percent of the population agreeing.
Consumers are also more concerned about healthy eating than they were a year ago, but 50 percent of people need more information or feel vulnerable to make decisions related to the healthfulness of their food.
“That is a big percentage in today’s communication environment where, by and large, people have told us year over year, especially within the last three years, I have access to all the information I need to make good decisions about food. Feeling confident about making those decisions is a different question all together.”
The number of people who are concerned about the use of hormones in animals ties to health as consumers strive to learn more about the food they eat and whether it is healthy. Fifty percent of the population shows concerns about hormones.
Genetic modification in food showed a slight downturn in favorability, with 44 percent of people strongly agreeing they are concerned about genetic modification.
Further, 52 percent of the population is concerned about chemicals in food, and 40 percent are concerned about artificial ingredients.
“Even on the retailers side, we’ve seen grocery stores and their private labels trying to call out artificial ingredients,” Beck says. “We also see opportunities to talk about why these are important for consumers.”
The Center for Food Integrity also asked consumers about what is important when purchasing food.
“As people are making these decisions, they’re assessing how much the decisions they make impact society,” Beck explains. “As we start to break that up by generation, we see some interesting trends.”
Specifically, millenials strongly believe food purchasing decisions have a greater impact on society than their voting decisions or involvement with communities. Generation X similarly tends to believe purchasing decisions impact society.
Over time, price, taste and convenience are “the three pillars most research firms have found are how people make decisions,” Beck comments. “We see a portion of that in our research.”
However, the Center for Food Integrity sees taste and price as the top two concerns for consumers as they make food purchases, but this year, they saw a shift in the third priority as it relates to food.
“Consumers are targeting the impact of food on health and food safety as their third and fourth concerns,” she comments. “The key driver for foodies is the impact of food on their health, second is food safety, and then taste and price.”
“It’s important to understand that taste and price, at the end of the day, are going to be the drivers that people use to make decisions,” Beck summarizes, “but we also have to think that there are other things that people are considering more and more.”
Beck spoke during a Feb. 27 webinar sponsored by the Center for Food Integrity titled, “Consumers Ditch Diets for Year-Round Health: Leveraging the Shift to Connect.”
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.