Alison Dasilva, EVP, Cone Communications
Americans are willing to sacrifice variety and dollars in order to eat more consciously, according to the 2014 Cone Communications’ Food Issues Trend Tracker. A number of specific health and sustainability issues rose to the top as most important when hitting the grocery aisles, including food safety (93%) and nutritional value (92%). But at least two-thirds of Americans prioritize a variety of other issues as significant factors when deciding what makes it into the shopping cart, including:
- 74% locally produced
- 69% sustainable packaging
- 69% animal welfare
- 67% non-GMO
- 65% protects/renews natural resources
Consumers Are Willing To Pay More To Eat Local
Nearly nine-out-of-10 Americans (89%) consider where a product is produced when making food purchasing decisions, and two-thirds (66%) would pay more for food that is produced close to home. Although locally sourced food provides environmental, economic and health benefits, consumers state supporting local businesses (64%) is the primary reason for buying local.
Americans’ convictions are so strong in their commitment to purchase locally produced foods that nearly half (46%) would sacrifice variety to do so.
As the local food movement goes mainstream, it’s not just about the “mom and pop shop” or farm stand. Even large companies have a role to talk about where they source food and the respective impacts on local communities. Using local as a broader value proposition helps companies of all sizes talk about the social and environmental benefits of responsible sourcing.
Americans Seek Sustainable Food
More than eight-in-10 Americans (83%) consider sustainability when buying food and would like to see more options available that protect the environment (81%). Their motivations span from the altruistic to the self-serving, including:
- 43% of Americans want to do their part to protect and preserve the environment
- 39% believes the quality/taste is better
- 38% wants to show their support for companies that are doing the right thing
- 27% believes the products are healthier
Consumers look to companies to help them understand the broader implications of their food purchasing decisions, with nearly three-quarters (74%) stating they want companies to do a better job explaining how their purchases impact the environment.
“Although consumers are shopping with an eye toward sustainability, they are equally motivated by personal needs and a desire to improve society,” says Liz Gorman, senior vice president of sustainable business practices at Cone Communications. “Messaging must be two-fold. Companies must clearly demonstrate the impact consumers’ purchases are having on the environment while reinforcing health, taste and quality attributes.”
GMO Confusion Persists: Consumers Look To Companies For Information
Eighty-four percent of consumers want companies to disclose information and educate them on GMOs in products because more than half (55%) say they don’t know whether GMOs are good or bad for them. Despite this confusion, three-in-five Americans are on the lookout for non-GMO-labeled foods when shopping. Reasons include:
- 39% believes non-GMO foods are healthier
- 32% worries about the effects on the environment
- 24% questions the ethics behind the use of GMOs
“The GMO debate is dominating media and social channels,” says Gorman. “Consumers are confused and the onus is on companies to help them understand GMOs and be transparent about if and how GMOs are used in the products they are buying.”
Grocery shopping decisions no longer hinge on price and taste alone. Consumers worry about where their food is made, what’s in it, and how it affects the environment. The stakes are higher for companies to not only provide food options that meet consumers’ modern needs but communicate attributes in a clear and transparent way. To view and read the additional research, visit ConeComm.com/2014-food-issues.