New Survey Zeroes In on Persuasiveness of Product Claims

Both 'natural' and 'no preservatives' are loosely regulated terms, but ones consumers act upon, survey shows
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While “natural” is not a regulated claim on food packaging, the word would be most likely to motivate up to 53% of Americans to buy regardless, a new study showed.

The survey of 1,000 U.S. adults by Wakefield Research for Label Insight shed some light on common but loosely-regulated claims that influence consumer purchase behavior.

While there is no standard definition, natural is a term used in marketing many “free-from” foods and can be defined as the absence of artificial flavors, artificial sweeteners and preservatives, or color additives, as well as products that are minimally processed. There are 21,838 food and beverage products in Label Insight’s database containing an “all natural” marketing claim on the package.

According to the study, more than half of shoppers (51%) were also swayed by “no preservatives,” particularly older generations. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of baby boomers say a product with that claim would motivate them to buy compared to Generation X (46%) and millennials (41%).

Corn Syrup a Showstopper 

Older adults are more concerned about high fructose corn syrup in their diet. The study shows that 57% of adults 65 and years and older say a product labeled “no high fructose corn syrup” would motivate them to purchase compared to adults ages 55-64 (47%), 45-54 (44%), 35-44 (38%) and 18-34 (34%).

Sugar is still a deterrent for American shoppers of all ages. Nearly half (46%) would be more likely to buy something labeled “low sugar.” Interestingly, there are only 10,352 food and beverage products making marketing claims relative to “low sugar diet” or “sugar-free," as compared to more than 92,000 products that qualify for a “low sugar” or “sugar-free” diet based on the products’ complete product profile, as determined by Label Insight’s ingredient analysis.

Similar dynamics appear to hold true for high fructose corn syrup. Products making a “free from high fructose corn syrup” marketing claim are seen in 9,211 food and beverage products, while there are more than 300,000 products that qualify based on the products’ complete product profile, as determined by Label Insight’s ingredient analysis.

Meat and Fish Origins Are Important

Today’s shoppers increasingly want to know the conditions under which the fish, poultry and livestock they are eating were raised. For this reason, consumers would be more likely to buy meat labeled as “antibiotic-free” (34%), “free range” (26%) and “grass fed” (25%). “Pasture-raised” influences only 17% of shoppers. Yet free range and pasture-raised are synonymous terms, meaning the animal has been raised outdoors.

In reviewing the Label Insight product database, 467 products make a “free range” claim and nearly twice that amount (862) make a “pasture-raised” claim, demonstrating a disconnect between brands and consumers about which term is more likely to influence a purchase.

“These results validate the mainstream demand for cleaner, greener and more forthcoming products,” said Dagan Xavier, senior vice president of data and co-founder of Chicago-based Label Insight. “More and more the everyday consumer is concerned about the products they are consuming on a daily basis. Yet these particular claims we surveyed are loosely regulated by the government, meaning that consumers need to advocate for transparency and accuracy in labeling. It’s also worth noting that in our own analysis of these terms, far more CPG brands could legitimately be using these marketing claims on thousands of products in order to better meet the consumer demand for transparency.”


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