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Transparency is vital to meeting growing consumer demands for product information

January 25, 2016

By: Jim Flannery, Senior Executive Vice President, Operations and Industry Collaboration

A new study shows that consumers are basing their food purchases more and more on new factors beyond price, taste and convenience, and it offers some important lessons for food manufacturers and retailers on the imperative to give consumers the information they want.

The study, released January 25 at a food industry event, was done by Deloitte, the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA). The study, “Capitalizing on the Shifting Consumer Food Value Equation,” found that roughly half of Americans surveyed (51 percent) weigh “evolving drivers” – health and wellness, safety, social impact, experience and transparency – in their purchasing decisions, in addition to the “traditional” factors of taste, price and convenience.

And while some may have thought this was a fad involving millennials or foodies, the study clearly shows that’s not the case. This trend is widespread and the increasing importance of these new factors applies regardless of where people live, their age or their income levels. This is about every consumer.

It’s important to know that price, taste and convenience are still the foundation on what consumers want and that brands need to meet, but the trends are clear. Growth and meeting consumer demands will require companies to be innovative and focused on ways to meet emerging drivers of consumer food-purchasing decisions on top of the foundational drivers of price, taste and convenience..

Our consumers are changing, they have a greater thirst for information and knowledge about products, their ingredients, and the way they were made than previous generations. And they are putting the assessment of that information into their value equation when deciding what to buy in the store.

All of these drivers are wrapped in the consumers’ requirement for greater transparency. While consumers are generally satisfied with the information available, there is often a trigger; a news article, a blog, a conversation with a friend. And when they want to know, they want to know now. If they find the information they are seeking you have a high likelihood of having a satisfied consumer. Transparency must become a mindset. If a company doesn’t make available to consumers information about its products, consumers will lose trust in that brand.

Industry initiatives such as SmartLabel, a new innovative program that puts information about 350 attributes of thousands of products right at the fingertips of consumers who have a smartphone, internet connection or phone line, are examples of industry-wide innovations that can give consumers not only information about ingredients, but also what they are and what they mean.

This consumer desire for information is only going to grow, and the companies and brands that will succeed are the ones who find the best and innovative ways to provide shoppers with the information that they expect and require.

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