According to insight from Nielsen: “As all marketers are well aware, today’s consumers are more educated than ever, largely because they have access to more information than ever—and that’s only going to continue. So when it comes time to shop, consumers are putting that knowledge to use, and they’re making their selections carefully and for specific purposes. They’re also willing to pay for products that meet their specific needs, and for many, those needs revolve around knowing exactly what’s in—and not in—the items they buy.”
Consumer survey results from product data company Label Insight indicated that 39% of U.S. consumers said they would switch from the brands they currently buy to others that provide clearer, more accurate product information. Additionally, 73% of consumers surveyed by Nielsen said they feel positively about brands that share the “why behind the buy” information about their products.
Interestingly, 68% said they’re willing to pay more for foods and beverages that don’t contain ingredients they perceive are bad for them. In some cases, consumers are more interested in knowing what’s not included than what is included in the products they buy. In fact, 53% of consumers said the exclusion of undesirable ingredients is more important than the inclusion of beneficial ingredients.
That list of “undesirable ingredients” includes artificial ingredients (flavors, colors, sweeteners, and preservatives), GMOs, antibiotics, and hard-to pronounce or unrecognizable ingredients. Essentially, consumers are looking for simplified formulas, and transparency from the brands they buy.
“Today, the ‘why’ and ‘how’ behind the products have become as important as the product itself, oftentimes becoming the primary decision-making criteria that drives a purchase. This has added an entirely new layer of complexity to the way fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies develop and market their products to consumers,” Nielsen noted.
Transparency and label claims are significant sales drivers. According to Nielsen data, sales of products that make organic claims are up 10% from a year ago, sales of products that make ‘all-natural’ claims are up 7.8%, and sales of products that claim “no additives or artificial ingredients” are up 8.0%. “We can also see increased sales across the broader categories along the progressive scale that describes the attributes within the clean arena.”
From ingredient lists, claims, and descriptors, to the nutrition facts panel, about four in 10 (42%) consumers said they rely on the product label as a source for helpful and accurate information about health and wellness, according to the Hartman Group.
Consumers believe less processed products are self-evident; they are not necessarily looking for a “less processed” label, the firm noted.
According to the company’s Health + Wellness 2017 report, 72% of millennials; 63% of gen X, and 59% of boomers agreed that “when shopping for foods and beverages, I look on the product label to see if the food or beverage is “minimally processed.”
Overall, when identifying a “less processed” food or beverage, consumers said they look for the following attributes:
- Close to original form of ingredients: looks, tastes, and feels like it should.
- Short, pronounceable, and recognizable ingredients.
- Ingredients that make sense for the product.
- Colors appropriate to primary product ingredients.
- Known “unnecessary” flavoring additions: sugars, salts low in ingredients list.
- Appropriately low amounts of sugar, sodium on nutrition facts panel.
- Visible whole ingredients.
- Culturally appropriate shape.
- Narratives and vocabulary of careful or minimal production (e.g., handmade, high-pressure processing, raw).
Ultimately, according to Nielsen, “The bottom line is that transparency and clean label are not point-in-time fads. They have gone mainstream and competition for consumers seeking clarity, purity and responsibility is going to continue to increase.”