Clean expectations: 59 percent of consumers believe natural products to be “healthy”

05 October 2018


New research, commissioned by functional ingredients manufacturer BENEO, shows that consumers pay more attention to what is inside the products they are buying, than to either the product’s description or the brand name itself. This highlights the drive by consumers to make healthier choices and shows the continued importance of manufacturers offering cleaner label, product alternatives in their portfolios.

The drive to all things natural continues unabated and when consumers were asked what characteristics they expected from a natural product, 59 percent expected a natural product “to be healthy” (54 percent Germany, 60 percent UK, 63 percent USA), 53 percent wanted it “to not be genetically modified” (50 percent UK, 50 percent US, 60 percent Germany) and 50 percent said it should “be a quality product” (46 percent Germany, 53 percent UK, 52 percent US).

Also high on the list of expectations for a natural product were for it “to have a pure taste” (44 percent), “be safe” (40 percent) and for it “to be low in sugar” (39 percent). This again demonstrates the importance of ingredient choice for manufacturers considering recipe reformulation.

“The BENEO clean label research reinforces the fact that consumer demand for ‘everything from nature’ continues to grow. With such a pull from the end user, we expect the clean label trend to grow further over the coming years and are continuing to align BENEO ingredients with it, so we can support our customers as they embrace product reformulation challenges,” Thomas Schmidt, Marketing Director at BENEO tells FoodIngredientsFirst.

“With manufacturers seeking to reduce the quantity of ingredients used in products and pursue more ‘natural’ ingredients lists, they are looking for advice on the best way to approach key reformulation challenges. Our team of experts at the BENEO Technology Centre are working closely with a range of food and drink providers at present on specific clean label issues and this ensures that we deliver far more than just an ingredient to our customers,” Schmidt adds.

BENEO’s online quantitative clean label consumer survey was carried out with 3,000 consumers from the UK, Germany and the US by Haystack, a multi-sensory research agency. The research gives insights into shoppers’ product choices and their preferred ingredients when buying cleaner label products. 

It seems that there is a stronger female bias to those preferring to analyze the ingredients in their products, rather than buy on brand alone. However, the results also show that the brand is not as important to male purchasers as what is in the product, showing that the healthier living message isn’t gender specific.

When shopping for a new product, what do you usually read on the packaging?
• The ingredient list – 51 percent Total, 56 percent USA, 51 percent UK, 47 percent Germany (53 percent female, 49 percent male).
• The brand – 45 percent Total, 51 percent USA, 43 percent UK and Germany (48 percent male, 43 percent female).
• The product description – 49 percent Total, 51 percent UK, 49 percent Germany, 46 percent USA (50 percent female, 47 percent male).

With the survey showing that consumers combine “natural” and “healthy” in their minds, it is no surprise that these phrases were strongly associated with rice. When the characteristics of key starch and flour ingredients (rice, corn, potato, tapioca and wheat) were compared, rice came out on top as “a cupboard ingredient” (67 percent), ‘healthy’ (58 percent) and ‘easy to digest’ (51 percent). This again demonstrates the power of choosing ingredients for recipe reformulation that are known and that consumers associate positively with.

With product descriptions seen as important by almost half of respondents, a variety of clean label claims were put to the test on the front of a tomato sauce. The most popular was ‘no preservatives/made with natural ingredients’, with 56 percent of consumers saying it showed that the product was natural and also that it had a clear, understandable label.

The consumers were also shown three different lists of ingredients for a tomato sauce; one with modified corn starch, one containing rice starch and one with an E-number. 73 percent of consumers preferred the tomato sauce with rice starch, compared to just 19 percent with modified corn starch and 8 percent with an E-number. The results show that consumers clearly connect a natural product with one that is free from additives and artificial ingredients and they are also looking for clear, relevant claims on pack.

Myriam Snaet, Head of Market Intelligence and Consumer Insights at BENEO comments: “Clean label has been a topic of great interest to consumers over recent years. Our research results show that ingredients lists are powerful purchasing motivators for consumers and can even be more important than the actual brand of the product. This focus on ingredients could encourage product switching if manufacturers don’t take consumers’ desires to eat more cleanly seriously. The research also shows that consumers combine the words ‘natural’ and ‘healthy’ and as such, food and drink producers need to ensure that the ingredients they are putting on the label are seen by consumers to be ingredients that they can relate to in a positive way. The research highlights that BENEO’s newly launched clean label rice starch, Remypure S52, is well placed to help manufacturers create unique textures and excellent product stability, even under harsh processing conditions.”

Published by on September 28, 2018

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