A Study of Clean Labels and Consumers by C+R Research

Contributing author: Matt Zajechowski, Senior Content Strategist and Outreach Manager at Digital Third Coast. Article inspired by C+R Research infographic about food & beverage clean labels.

 

For a long time consumers have found food labeling hard to decipher, which causes a great deal of confusion around the ingredients in the food we buy and consume. Consumers feel they have the right to know exactly what’s in the food they buy. One of the hottest topics in the food industry today revolves around the increasing consumer demand for clean labels.

Not totally familiar with concept behind clean labels? A clean label is a consumer driven movement that demands a return to real food and transparency through authenticity. Food products with clean labels contain natural, familiar and simple ingredients that are easy to recognize, understand and pronounce. Clean labels have no artificial ingredients or synthetic chemicals.

 

As consumers embrace foods that are made of simple and natural ingredients, food manufacturers are feeling the pressure to clean up their labeling.

 

As consumers embrace foods that are made of simple and natural ingredients, food manufacturers are feeling the pressure to clean up their labeling. Nutrition labels and ingredient declarations are the primary way for consumers and food manufacturers to have a conversation about what’s in food products. However a large percentage of consumers (48%) find confusion and distrust in food labels.

 

 

To help address this distrust, C+R research, a marketing research firm in Chicago, has put together a study of clean labels and consumer concerns. The goal of the study was to provide a resource that helps shoppers get to the bottom of what’s in common food products. In the study, C+R explored recent clean label and consumer trends. The study goes into further detail in these main areas:

  • How much do labels matter to consumers?
  • Who’s most concerned with labels?
  • What are consumer’s top concerns with labels?
  • What are the most commonly occurring ingredients in food?

 

Let’s take a deeper look into the takeaways from the study on clean labels:

 

1. How much do food labels matter?

The study found that 69% of people say that reading food labels has a direct impact on their shopping habits. At least in 1 in 4 consumers regularly reads food labels, looking for specific ingredients in nearly all the food they buy.

 

 

2. Who’s most concerned with labels?

The study found that there are four different types of consumers when it comes to food labels: Vigilants, Keep It Simple, Balancers, and Not Bothered.

  • Vigilants – are defined as consumers that take a well-informed approach to food. Vigilants reward companies they trust with their continued business. 72% of Vigilants will walk away from a product if the label doesn’t represent health and wellness. 20% of consumers identify as Vigilants.
  • Keep It Simple – are consumers that rely on external signals for signs of the health benefits of food. Examples of this include manufacturer claims, the FDA’s stance and seals of approval. 67% of these consumers say they don’t look at the labels of products made by brands they trust. 47% of all consumers identify as Keep It Simple.
  • Balances – are consumers that tend to keep everything in moderation. While they pay attention to food labels, they aren’t overly anxious about them. 80% of balancers prioritize the presence of the positive benefits on food labels, rather than looking for undesirable ingredients. 15% of consumers identify as Balancers.
  • Not Bothered – are consumers that don’t have the time to over-analyze the ingredients on food labels. They only want what’s cheap and convenient. Front-of- package claims have a profound influence on these consumers. 92% of these consumers won’t even look at food labels. 18% of all consumers identify as Not Bothered.

 

 

3. What are consumer’s top concerns with labels?

Different generation have different concerns when it comes to clean labels. The study found the top concerns of three different generations: Millennials, Generation X, and Baby Boomers.

 

Millennials

Of the three generations, millennials are most concerned with products that are gluten free, fair trade and vegan. These are the top concerns for Millennials:

  • Amount of sugar
  • All-natural
  • Amount of protein
  • Sodium levels
  • Free from preservatives

GenERATION X

Of the three generations, Generation X (aka “Gen X”) are least concerned with ingredients and additives. They are most likely to fall into the “Not Bothered” category. These are the top concerns for Generation X:

  • The product is on sale
  • The product is all-natural.
  • Amount of sugar
  • Hormone-free
  • Trans fats

Baby Boomers

Of the three generations, Baby Boomers are most likely to report that sugar and fat levels influence what they buy. These are the top concerns for Baby Boomers:

  • Amount of sugar
  • Sodium levels
  • Trans fats
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • High- fructose corn syrup

 

 

4. What are the most commonly occurring ingredients in food?

C+R research compiled a comprehensive graphic and resource that lists the 100+ commonly occurring food ingredients and breaks down what the ingredients are, where they come from and why they’re in your food.

See below infographic:

 


About the contributing author:

Matt Zajechowski is a Senior Content Strategist and Outreach Manager at Digital Third Coast, a digital marketing agency in Chicago. He is also an avid reader of food labels and strives to eat only clean meals. Connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.