GfK asked 23,000 consumers online in 17 countries how important certain factors were (from a given list) when deciding what to eat or drink. Nearly half (48%) reported that products being low-sugar or sugar-free was extremely or very important to them, and an equal number said the same for products being free from genetically-modified (GMO) ingredients.
Low sodium or low-salt products came in third highest on the list, with 45%. Forty-four percent of consumers said organic products, low fat or no-fat products, and products fortified with vitamins or minerals were very or extremely important when making their decision on what to eat or drink.
The report found organic, probiotic, fortified and gluten-free products were more important to people aged under 40. The most selective food and drink shoppers were those aged 30-39 years old. This group nearly always has the highest percentage rating factors as "very" or "extremely" important.
Also of note was that organic products, or those fortified with vitamins or minerals, pre- or probiotic, or gluten-free products, were more important amongst people under 40 years old than among those age 40+.
As expected, people from higher income households set consistently higher importance on all the factors, compared to lower income households. Among higher income households, the most important factors were GMO-free (55%), low sugar or sugar-free (54%), and low sodium or low salt (52%). Among low income households, GMO-free and low sugar or sugar-free were also the top two valued factors, but were mentioned by a significantly lower percentage (44% and 43% respectively). The third most important factor for this group was a tie between organic products and products fortified with vitamins or minerals (41%).
Gender made very little difference in how people rated the decision factors, according to GfK. Men were very slightly more likely than women to place importance on local products, fortified products, pre- or probiotic and gluten-free, but the difference in each case was only three percentage points.
Chinese consumers were the most selective on what to eat and drink, out of 17 countries surveyed. In eight out of the nine decision factors researched, China topped the list for each item. The only exception was for locally produced products, where Italy took the lead.
The greatest difference between China and other nations was seen when it came to preference for pre- or probiotic products. Here, China was 21 percentage points ahead of the next closest country, with over half of its online population placing high importance on this factor.