Survey: Amid Growing Concerns about Food Safety, Consumers Look to Natural, Fresh Products

U.S. consumers are increasingly concerned about food and beverage safety and, as a result, many are embracing fresh and unprocessed products, according to a new study published by Multi-sponsor Surveys, a market research company. Multi-sponsor’s Study of Clean Food & Beverage Labels cites a recent survey of 2,100 American adults in which only one in six expressed a “great deal” of confidence in food safety, a sharp decline from 2008 in which one in four adults were greatly confident about the safety of foods and beverages.

The survey found that consumers are most worried about the safety of imported foods followed by concerns regarding exposure to pesticides on foods, exposure to food-borne pathogens (such as e-coli and salmonella), and the use of antibiotics or growth hormones in livestock.

Because of rising concerns about food safety, over the last five years, consumers have made greater efforts to consume fresh, unprocessed foods. According to the survey, since 2008, “the percentage of adults who strongly agree they ‘make a strong effort to consume fresh foods instead of processed foods,’ increased from 24 percent to 32 percent.”

Clean labeling is also growing in significance to consumers. Multi-sponsor reported that “more than 70 percent of adults have purchased foods or beverages with clean label package claims in the past year.” Additionally, 68 percent agreed with the statement that “it’s best not to buy packaged foods that contain a long list of ingredients.” Consumers gravitated most to labels with claims of all-natural ingredients, no artificial ingredients, no artificial preservatives, no high fructose corn syrup, organic and no artificial colors.

Multi-sponsor noted that millennials are leading the charge for greater adoption of clean labels and consumption of organic foods.

“Millennials more attracted to clean labels such as ‘all natural,’ ‘organic,’ ‘gluten-free,’ free-range,’ and ‘hormone-free,’ than baby boomers or older adults who are more focused on sugar, sodium and whole grains,” said Karen Bundy, Vice President, Multi-sponsor Surveys.