Consumers are more afraid of food

by Monica Watrous
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Food anxieties translate to more trips to the farmers’ market and more dishes made from scratch.

STAMFORD, CONN. — The thrill is gone — that is, for 40% of consumers who reported in a recent survey they no longer enjoy the foods they eat due to safety and quality concerns. Nearly twice as many parents as non-parents shared these fears, said Daymon Worldwide, New York.

“Our study digs deeper into consumer behaviors to find out exactly which ingredients and additives cause them the most concern, how that’s changed in the last five years and what they’re willing to do to avoid them,” said Janet Oak, head of global advisory and custom shopper insights for Daymon Worldwide. “Not surprisingly, consumers are most concerned about ingredients that might cause cancer, such as pesticides, fertilizers and unnecessary additives and preservatives.”

These anxieties translate to more trips to the farmers’ market and more dishes made from scratch, she said.

In an on-line survey, Daymon Worldwide’s custom shopper insights team asked 1,000 respondents about their greatest fears regarding specific ingredients in food and how that affects their purchasing decisions. One third of respondents said they are more concerned about food product safety and quality than they were a year ago, and 50% are more concerned than they were five years ago. In particular, consumers fear MSG, high mercury levels, bioengineered ingredients, dangerous bacteria, fertilizers and additives and the perceived harmful effect they may have on children’s development. These concerns, accurate or not, are affecting consumer shopping behaviors, Daymon said.

Janet Oak, head of global advisory and custom shopper insights for Daymon Worldwide.

“Consumers are actively taking a variety of measures to avoid the ingredients they’re most worried about, including conducting extensive on-line research, avoiding stores that offer products with perceived harmful ingredients, and spending more money on fresh items considered healthier,” Ms. Oak said. “Retailers and suppliers need to be ready to address these concerns and provide solutions that inspire confidence and retain business.”

Retailers may leverage their private brands to better connect with consumers making purchasing decisions based on ingredient concerns, she said.

“Our study found that only 22% of consumers believe national brands to be healthier than private brands,” Ms. Oak said. “This presents significant business potential for retailers ready to invest in their private brands to surprise and delight their consumers by delivering high quality, cleaner private brand offerings that also provide savings.”

In addition to partnering with suppliers to achieve cleaner labels on private brand products, retailers’ marketing communications should be clear, concise and consistent, Ms. Oak noted.

“By making health and wellness an affordable choice for concerned consumers, savvy retailers and suppliers will establish trust that’s well worth the investment,” she said.
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