Reaching for Real Ingredients: Avoiding the Artificial

Reaching for Real Ingredients: Avoiding the Artificial

When it comes to staying healthy, consumers are all too aware of the significant impact that the foods we eat have on our overall health. But consumer knowledge isn’t limited to including the basic food groups—we’re also excluding the ingredients that concern us. In fact, almost half (44%) of Belgian respondents say they follow a diet that limits or prohibits consumption of some foods or ingredients. Taking a closer look, a majority of Belgian respondents say that when it comes to ingredient trends, a back-to-basics mind-set, focused on simple ingredients and fewer artificial or processed foods, is a priority.

Antibiotics or hormones in animal products (64%), artificial colors (52%), preservatives (52%), and flavors (51%) top the list of ingredients that consumers in the Belgians try to avoid. In addition, 51% of those surveyed say they avoid genetically modified organisms. Consumers aren’t just concerned about the ingredients in foods; they’re also concerned about food packaging. 49% of Belgian respondents say they avoid food products contained in a package made with BPA (Bisphenol A), a chemical found in hard plastics and the coatings of food packages and drink cans.

Why are respondents 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, roughly eight in 10 global respondents say they do so because they believe these ingredients are harmful to their own or their family’s health. In Belgium, the percentages who give this reason are fairly steady across categories: antibiotics (89%), artificial colors (91%), flavors (90%), preservatives (89%) or sweeteners (81%); BPA (88%); GMOs (85%); saturated of trans fats (78%); and MSG (78%).

Other findings include:

  • 65% of Belgian respondents feel more positively about companies that are transparency about where and how products are made or grown.
  • 59% of Belgian respondents say they’re worried about the long-term impact of artificial ingredients.
  • In addition to artificial ingredients, diets that limit the amount of sugar (38%) and artificial sweeteners (43%) are the most commonly cited restrictions among Belgian respondents.
  • 42% of respondents with special dietary requirements say that current offerings do not fully meet their needs.

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 behavior 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.