Eliminating the Unnatural: Consumers Demand Simple Food Free From Artificial Ingredients

Eliminating the Unnatural: Consumers Demand Simple Food Free From Artificial Ingredients


As consumers take the fight against obesity and chronic disease into their own hands, many are eliminating ingredients that concern them from their daily diet. Findings from Nielsen’s Global Health and Ingredient Sentiment Survey shows that across the Pacific, consumers are adopting a back-to-basics mindset where a focus on simple ingredients and fewer artificial or processed foods is a priority.

For both Aussie and Kiwi consumers, animal foods that contain antibiotics or hormones are the most bothersome, with six in 10 saying they actively avoid these products. More than half avoid food that contain MSG; artificial preservatives, flavours, colours and sweeteners; and also food in packaging that contains BPA (Bisphenol A – a chemical found in hard plastics). Foods that are high in sugar and sodium and those that are genetically Modified (GM) also feature in the top 10 ingredients that consumers avoid.

Why are consumers avoiding these ingredients? Primarily because of their perceived impact on health, rather than because of an actual medical condition. Among those who say they avoid specific ingredients, close to nine in 10 Pacific respondents say they do so because they believe these ingredients are harmful to their own or their family’s health; while six in 10 say they are concerned about the long-term health impact of artificial ingredients in their diet.

While consumers appear to have concerns around ingredients, their intentions don’t always mirror their actual behaviour. Opting for better-for-you food choices may be important, but many still want to treat themselves. Nielsen retail scanning data shows that In both Australia and New Zealand confectionery supermarket sales have grown by 4.3% and 7.5% respectively, over the last year.

It would seem consumers want to eat more healthfully, but they need help to make it happen. Almost half (47%) of Australian consumers and 44% of Kiwis say they wished there were more ‘all natural’ food products on store shelves; while one in two Aussies and 46% of New Zealanders agree they’re willing to pay more for foods and drinks that don’t contain undesirable ingredients.

Helping consumers eat better is a clear gap in the market that could drive healthier bottom lines for manufacturers and retailers. While many consumers are taking steps to opt for better-for-you food choices, our research shows they still want to treat themselves.

Simple is in, and informed and savvy consumers are demanding more from the foods they eat – many prioritising ingredients over brands. In response to this trend, manufacturers should review their product portfolios for opportunities to remove or replace undesirable ingredients, particularly those seen as most objectionable, including antibiotics; artificial colours, flavours, preservatives and sweeteners; GMOs; and packaging made with BPA. Manufacturers that have already taken these steps should highlight them prominently in their marketing campaigns. In addition, they should look for opportunities to leverage powerful brand names through line extensions, creating organic and natural alternatives to their existing product lines.

Manufacturers that innovate by incorporating ingredients and preparation methods that improve the nutritional profile of their product portfolio will be strongly positioned to succeed.

For more detail and insight, download Nielsen’s Global Ingredient and Dining-Out Trends Report. If you would like more detailed country-level data from this survey, it is available for sale in the Nielsen Store.


The Nielsen Global Health and Ingredient-Sentiment Survey was conducted March 1-23, 2016, and polled more than 30,000 online consumers in 63 countries throughout Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East/Africa and North America. The sample for both surveys includes internet users who agreed to participate in this survey and has quotas based on age and sex for each country. It is weighted to be representative of internet consumers by country. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. However, a probability sample of equivalent size would have a margin of error of ±0.6% at the global level. This Nielsen survey is based only on the behaviour of respondents with online access. Internet penetration rates vary by country. Nielsen uses a minimum reporting standard of 60% internet penetration or an online population of 10 million for survey inclusion.