Serving Up Simple: Global Consumers Want Transparency in Ingredients

Serving Up Simple: Global Consumers Want Transparency in Ingredients

The ins-and-outs of what a healthy diet looks like may vary somewhat around the world, but one thing is for sure: simplicity resonates globally. While there is some variation across regions, the story stays the same: Artificial is out, many of us avoid foods with long lists of ingredients, and consumers are intent on removing the bad and adding the good.

In fact, three-quarters of global respondents (75%) strongly or somewhat agree that they’re concerned about the long-term health impact of artificial ingredients, with the highest level of agreement in Asia-Pacific (80%). In addition, 69% strongly or somewhat agree that foods without artificial ingredients are always more healthful, and just over half (52%) strongly or somewhat agree that foods and beverages with fewer ingredients are more healthful, with agreement even stronger in North America (61%).

Many consumers define healthful foods primarily by what they don’t contain, rather than the benefits they provide. Sixty-two percent of global respondents agree that the absence of undesirable ingredients is more important than the inclusion of beneficial ones. Once again, Asia-Pacific leads the way, with 70% of respondents saying they strongly or somewhat agree with this statement.

“Informed and savvy consumers are demanding more from the foods they eat, and some are prioritizing ingredients over brands,” said Andrew Mandzy, Director of Strategic Health and Wellness Insights, Nielsen. “To many consumers, simple is beautiful, and foods with a short list of recognizable ingredients resonate strongly. Savvy manufacturers are responding to this trend by modifying product portfolios by simplifying food ingredient lists and creating natural and organic alternatives to existing offerings. Meanwhile, retailers are also prioritizing healthful foods and better-for-you brands in the center of the store, and emphasizing fresh and perishable foods around the perimeter in order to drive growth.”

So how do today’s store shelves fare in the face of the ingredient-aware consumer? According to those surveyed who are the most sensitive, there’s room for improvement. Among respondents who say they have a food sensitivity/allergy or follow a special diet that limits or restricts specific foods or ingredients, fewer than half (45%) say their needs are being fully met by current product offerings. Fewer than four in 10 respondents in the Latin America and Africa/Middle East regions say their needs are fully being met (37% each). Satisfaction levels are highest in North America, where 59% say their dietary needs are being fully met by current offerings, likely a reflection of the ample product selection and large store sizes in the region.

“As awareness and diagnosis of food sensitivities rise worldwide and more consumers opt to change their diets, a new set of dietary needs with strong potential for growth is emerging,” said Mandzy. “There is clearly a gap, however, between the products many consumers are looking for and those that are currently available. Marketers that prioritize unmet needs by way of new-product development, enhancement initiatives and assortment decisions will not only realize a boost to their bottom lines, but will also build a loyal shopper base that will drive sales well into the future.”

Other findings from our recent global Ingredient and Dining-Out Trends report include:

  • Artificial flavors (62%), preservatives (62%) and colors (61%) are the most avoided food ingredients among respondents worldwide.
  • Diets that limit the amount of fat (31%) or sugar (26%) are the most commonly cited restrictions among global respondents.
  • Thirty-six percent of global respondents say they or someone in their household suffers from a food allergy or intolerance.
  • Sixty-four percent of global respondents say they follow a diet that limits or prohibits consumption of some foods or ingredients.

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.

About the Nielsen Global Survey

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.