The Surge in Labeling Certification

Fair trade study reveals insights into consumer decision-making

While hot products and trendsetting introductions filled the aisles at the world's largest natural, organic and healthy products event, the 38th annual Natural Products Expo West also showcased a dizzying array of labels, seals and certifications.

Produced by New Hope Network in Boulder, Colo., Expo West drew a record-setting 85,000 attendees to the Anaheim Convention Center and brought together 3,521 exhibiting companies, many of which introduced new certified products.

From Regenerative Organic Certified to Certified Gluten-Free and Non-GMO Project Verified to Certified Sustainable, a growing number of product labels now bear multiple seals and certifications.

But is the food and beverage industry’s plethora of certification seals an information overload, or exactly what today’s increasingly health-conscious and source-curious consumer demands?

Just prior to the Expo West, Fairtrade America released new insights into consumer decision-making regarding product labels.

Washington, D.C.-based Fairtrade America partnered with research firms Globescan and Atlantic 57 to explore consumer attitudes and perceptions around product labels. According to their findings, most Americans (55%) familiar with the Fairtrade label trust it, while people between the ages of 25 and 44 reported even higher levels of trust, approaching 66%.

With the average grocery store carrying more than 47,000 different products, today’s shoppers are confronted with an overwhelming amount of options. Focus group research by Atlantic 57 found that consumers focus on cost, healthfulness and trust in making food decisions. Given the variety of claims on labels, consumers need clear, transparent labeling to guide their choices.

“If there are many options of what to buy, I generally look for believable labeling that reflects sustainable and fair trade, sometimes organic, sometimes more natural, etc. The more info on the package, the easier it is to make my decision,” said one focus group participant.

Globescan found a “fair trade halo effect,” with 81% of consumers saying they would view a brand they already buy more favorably with a fair trade label. Friends and family were also a trusted source for information on products and labels. Globescan’s work showed that 75% of consumers familiar with fair trade products would recommend them to a friend.

“The Fairtrade label gives consumers an easy way to identify products that protect human rights, confront inequality, and ensure farmers and workers receive a fairer price,” said Bryan Lew, COO of Fairtrade America, in a statement. “With an increased interest in how goods are produced, Fairtrade’s rigorous certification system gives consumers confidence.”

Focus group participants cited personal values for their support of fair trade. With nearly one in three Americans actively supporting environmental or social nonprofit organizations, shopping fair trade can be a way to extend that support.

The Fairtrade label appears on more than 35,000 products that are sold in over 140 countries and hail from over 1.65 million producers across 75 countries.


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