As a food marketer, I’ve found it’s always good to understand what consumers care about when it comes to food. It’s often different than what you may think. So, when a Nielsen report on Food Hot Topics landed on my desk recently, I decided to spend a little time with it to see whether my understanding matched the research.
The research measured consumer awareness and attitudes about topics related to food production and shopping. The topics ranged from rising prices due to tariffs to livestock impact on climate change, pesticide and herbicide use, and the declining bee population. There was also an array of labeling topics—locally sourced, fair trade, no added sugar, GMOs, antibiotic use, free from artificial ingredients and foods with functional benefits. Food waste and ugly produce programs were covered as well.
Working in the food industry, all these topics are familiar to me, some more than others. The more familiar ones are those I encounter working at Tree Top—ugly produce, food waste, pesticide and herbicide use, declining bee populations and label claims. These are all commonly discussed at Tree Top. But are consumers thinking about them?
Being an optimist, I was glad to see that only a quarter of the more than 20,000 people surveyed were not aware of any of the food topics mentioned. That means 75% of people are at least somewhat aware of issues impacting the food they eat. Now regarding awareness of each of the topics, buy local was first at 46%, followed by decline in bee population – 40%, GMOs in food at 35%, no added sugar/sugar reduction – 33% and antibiotic use in animal production – 32%. All the remaining topics had awareness levels of 30% or lower.
Income was a major factor in awareness levels. Households with higher incomes had higher awareness levels. Age was also another factor. Millennials showed both the highest awareness levels on topics and had the highest percentage of those with no awareness at all. Boomers showed the next highest level of awareness among the generational groups.
With awareness levels about food production topics segmented, this may signal a need for education. The research did show, though, consumers are interested in learning more about these topics, particularly younger generations.
In fact, the survey showed consumers want to learn more about the following areas:
|Decline in bee population||67%|
|Pesticide/herbicide use in food production||66%|
|Antibiotic use in animal production||59%|
|Food waste in grocery stores||58%|
|Food waste in home||57%|
|Free from artificial ingredients||57%|
|Ugly produce programs||53%|
What does all this mean for the food industry? I would group many of the areas that consumers want to know about into the transparency bucket. People may not be as familiar with all the issues we face daily, but they are interested in knowing about them. And it means that the initiatives we work on at Tree Top everyday—creating bee-friendly habitats, working with farmers to reduce pesticide use, processing ugly fruit into nutritious ingredients and eliminating waste—do resonate with average consumers.
To learn more about our process—view our latest video, Pears – From Farm to Fruit Forms and watch how whole fruit is sustainably sourced and transformed into delicious tasting fruit ingredients.