- Only about 40% of consumers say they have trust in the food system, according to a Consumer Trust Study by InsightsNow. The data was shared by the behavioral research firm's CEO Dave Lundahl and Greg Stucky, its chief research officer, at IFT19 in New Orleans.
- While the top reason consumers are interested in clean label is because they're worried about their health (61%,) a close second is because they distrust food manufacturers (53%), according to Lundahl.
- The two factors also were cited by the International Food Information Council Foundation that revealed 78% of consumers receive conflicting information about what food they should eat and which to skip. In addition, only 43% of people can identify a food or nutrient that's considered to have health benefits.
While consumer confusion over what foods are healthy is eroding trust, manufacturers can turn the sentiment around with strategic product development and marketing, Stucky said while speaking on an IFT panel in New Orleans.
"There are many ways to label the exact same ingredient," he said.
Take salt, for example. There's salt, sea salt, smoked sea salt, sodium and sodium chloride. Sea salt has widespread acceptance as clean label, according to InsightNow's Clean Label Score, a rating system that evaluates a person's reaction to an ingredient. The data shows that using "smoked sea salt," however, made its score decrease and any word that sounded like a chemical dropped the numbers extensively.
A manufacturer may need to tweak the product slightly, but its acceptance — and in turn sales — could rise because the clean label market right now is hot. According to Euromonitor, global clean label sales are projected to reach $180 billion by 2020. Its value has been proven as larger companies have made significant changes to many products in their portfolios to better reflect the trend.
Companies such as Nestlé, Campbell Soup and Danone have all swapped out some of their original ingredients for ones that are easily recognized and pronounced. While some could argue it's easier for major brands to shift since they have the resources, these companies not only have to deal with potential fallout from altering household favorites but also the lack of consumer trust.
A big reason that smaller, more nimble upstarts have dethroned big food manufacturers in some areas is because they are viewed in a more favorable light with consumers and often are able to create and roll out products without the bureaucratic red tape. Chobani, Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods and Halo Top are prime examples, seemingly coming out of nowhere to dominate their respective markets — only to see big food companies follow with similar offerings.
"If you're a large company, you have a trust gap," Lundahl said.
Consumers are less likely to believe their claims of fresh, pure, authentic or natural. On the other hand, he noted that if a big food maker labels items that are certified or easily verified by third-party groups, including GMO-free or gluten-free, then they're considered equally trustworthy.
"Buying of clean label products, buying organic, those sorts of things — those are very emotionally driven, implicit behaviors that people have," Stucky told the audience. "How you build your product … that same ingredient on the same label, just based on the marketing and how that product is positioned, is going to change the consumer's belief system as to whether it’s clean label or not."