Report: Consumers prefer on-package labels for certain food information, websites for others

Dive Brief:

  • About 40% of consumers agreed that the food system is heading in the right direction, which is 2 percentage points lower than last year but 6% up from 2013, according to the latest research from the Center for Food Integrity.
  • The report revealed other takeaways regarding transparency and consumer sentiments about accessing information about the food industry, including that consumers overwhelmingly prefer to find information about impact of food on health and food safety on a product's packaging.
  • Websites are consumers' top-ranked sources of information for food system issues at 21%, followed by local TV (15%), family not online (13%), friends not online (13%), and Google (10%), according to CFI.

Dive Insight:

These results are significant in the context of changes to Nutrition Facts requirements and the mandatory GMO labeling bill currently on its way to the House after Senate approval came late Thursday.

In that bill, manufacturers could use QR codes on packaging to label GMO ingredients. By scanning the code with a smartphone, users could access a website with more detailed ingredient and product information. In the survey, QR codes were ranked as the least-preferred method of getting that information. If House legislators share consumers' preference for on-package statements, House approval on the bill as it stands could be challenging.

However, these results also demonstrate how powerful a manufacturer's website can be in relaying product and company information to consumers. By providing more information on its website, such as about ingredient sourcing and animal welfare, manufacturers may be able to bypass certain concerns consumers have about where their foods and beverages come from. 

The survey also showed that consumers frequently rank third-party websites as equivalent or more preferable sources of food-related information. Social media, blogs, and reviews sites are becoming increasingly important sources of pre-purchase information for consumers, so manufacturers will need to keep these sites in mind when developing communication strategies. That could mean potentially mitigating backlash on third-party sites when needed, or capitalizing on positive reviews or social shares by other consumers and organizations.

Filed Under: Food Safety Sustainability
Top image credit: Fotolia