What, where and how? Consumers want food transparency

With public concern over environmental and personal health issues at an all-time high and rising, product transparency came top of Innova Market Insights’ Top 10 Trends of 2021. It shows the importance of clarity in ingredients, labeling and the telling of a product’s life story.

Transparency is Innova’s #1 trend for 2021 and, in response to heightened consumer interest, the food and beverage industry is working toward ever greater clarity. This takes many forms: explaining exactly what is in products, where food comes from and how this impacts the world. Overall, consumers’ food choices are no longer driven solely by health considerations, but also by their concerns over the environment and the sustainability of food production.

People have always been interested in what goes into their food. That concern is higher today than ever before, with 85% of respondents saying that this is of major importance to them. In the past, interest was focused largely on the absence of additives or chemical ingredients, but today’s consumers are just as likely to look for the natural components that are there as the artificial ones that aren’t. For example, growing numbers are influenced by the use of real, organic or plant based ingredients. Simpler recipes with fewer ingredients are highly desirable and some suppliers have even taken this as far as shifting the ingredients list onto the front of packs to emphasize their simplicity. RXBar in the US has used this policy as standard, with its recently launched RX AM Cinnamon Spice Oats containing just oats, dates, egg whites, almonds, cinnamon and natural flavors.

As well as knowing what is in their food, consumers are also significantly interested in tracing where it has come from and how it is made, with 59% saying they are somewhat or very interested in this. Ingredient or flavor provenance has been popular for some time, but there is now a growing focus on highlighting local production and delivering much clearer traceability. In Australia, for example, “Australian Made” claims were carried by 35% of all new food and beverages launched in the 12 months to Q1 2021.

Rx A M Cinnamon Spice Oats (United States, Jan 2021), 1 De Beste Rooibos Met Honingsmaak: Rooibos Tea With Honey Flavor (Netherlands, Mar 2021), Fancypants Baking Co Upcycled Chocolate Chip Cookies (United States, Apr 2021).
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Perhaps the most topical issue attracting consumer interest, however, is the impact that food has on the world around us. Environmental claims are now more important than human or animal welfare ones, both in consumer consciousness and within new product activity. Although direct mention of sustainability remains rare on the grocery shelves, there are signs of interest in certain specific issues, including plant based recipes and palm oil removal. Meanwhile, climate neutrality is becoming more important. There are numerous schemes emerging around the world, including ClimatePartner in Germany, the UK, Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands; the Climate Neutral Group in the Netherlands and South Africa; and Climate Neutral in the US. As an example, Dutch retailer 1 de Beste has recently launched a rooibos tea with honey flavor, which carries both fair trade and Climate Neutral logos, and it may not be long before the latter becomes as familiar to consumers as the former.

Looking ahead, upcycling is expected to feature more prominently in food and drink innovation. In line with this, the Upcycled Food Association has recently rolled out the first logo to certify products. Starting in the US in August 2021, over 255 products and ingredients are being targeted for certification under the scheme. Fancypants Baking’s cookies, made from okara flour (derived from the pulp of processed soybeans), are a prime candidate for the logo as the company already uses the term upcycled in its branding. In addition, as consumer awareness of this issue increases, more and more waste by-products will find new life in food and drink recipes.

“Transparency Triumphs” is a new Trends Insider report from Innova Market Insights. It looks at the growing importance of transparency in the marketing of food and beverages, reviewing consumer attitudes and highlighting the ways in which innovators are responding to demands for clearer labeling.

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