Monday, 24 January, 2022

Transparency, quality … what consumers expect from food

Supporting food industry manufacturers who are evolving to meet “societal expectations for greater transparency and traceability”. This is one of the promises made by the brand new Minister of Agriculture and Food at the opening of Sial, the International Food Fair. The sector’s high mass will be held in Villepinte, near Paris, until Thursday, bringing together some 7,200 exhibitors from more than 100 countries. “More transparency”. By pointing out this societal expectation during the Sial, Didier Guillaume hit the nail on the head. The need for transparency is extremely strong among consumers, and not only in France.

Whether in the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany or Spain, at least eight out of ten consumers want more transparency for food products, according to the Kantar TNS study in partnership with the Sial. And this figure even rises to 96% in Russia, 98% in China and 99% in Southeast Asia! But more transparency on what? Mainly on the list and the origin of the ingredients. These two responses appear –and prominently– in the top-5 needs mentioned by consumers in all the countries studied… except in China. Chinese consumers first demand more information on food safety and storage conditions.

Quality and pleasure

Knowing precisely what are the ingredients that go into the composition of what we eat: the trend is not denied in France. And she makes cracking apps like Yuka a success. So much so that U Stores also released their own app, called Y A Quelle Dedans, in September. “Yuka is a response to a consumer need” estimates Pascale Grelot-Girard, Expertise Market Intelligence director of Kantar TNS, who noted that they are looking for readable and understandable lists of ingredients. “In France, the reading of ingredient lists increased from 55% in 2016 to 62% in 2018” she adds.

Transparency, a requirement that responds to a need to be reassured about what we eat. Today, 77% of French people think that there are significant risks in relation to what they eat against 53% in 1995, recalls Pascale Hébel, director of the Consumption department at Crédoc. “In France, the perceived risk between food and health increased from 59% to 79% between 2012 and 2016 and is stable between 2016 and 2018” also indicates Pascale Grelot-Girard. More transparency to reduce worries. “Consumers want to eat well, to be sure of the quality and at the same time, want food products to give them taste” describes the Expertise Market Intelligence director of Kantar TNS. 62% of French people say they choose high quality food products more and more often, according to the Kantar TNS study. And they are even 66% to estimate that eating well is eating good quality food: this is barely more than the proportion of French people who consider that eating well is having fun (65%). The tendency to favor more and more quality products is shared in all the countries of the study.

Distributors have also embarked on a battle for “better eating” in France, notably with Franprix which deploys its Noé concept giving pride of place to organic, vegan among others, or even Auchan which selects with La Vie Bleu products with the best composition… It must be said that this subject which regularly makes the headlines in the media, is carried by consumer associations and is the subject of all the attentions of politicians, as shown by the Food Law or the report of the National Assembly’s commission of inquiry on industrial food

The fair remuneration of the farmers in question

But consumers’ expectations are not limited to the transparency and quality of food, their act of purchase also takes into account the meaning conveyed by the products in question. A majority of consumers, regardless of the country studied, consider animal welfare and the issue of packaging to be important. Animal welfare is even considered an important element for 89% of Germans, 91% of French and 93% of British according to the same Kantar TNS study.

Similarly, a large majority of consumers (over 60%) in these three European countries but also in Spain, the United States and China say they are ready to “pay more to promote the work of farmers and breeders”. However, the question of fair remuneration for producers is not unanimous. If in France – an effect of the debates around the Agriculture and Food Law and the media coverage of the agricultural crisis? – the majority believe that farmers and breeders are not remunerated fairly, an opinion shared in Germany and Spain but this is far from being the case in other countries.

It remains to be seen who do consumers believe to promote healthy, quality products? In France, it is farmers and breeders who gain the most confidence, at 67%. Far ahead of artisans, traders, small agrifood companies, public authorities and… consumers who are only mentioned by 30% of those questioned. And yet, consumers have “real power through the selection of such and such a brand, for example” recalls Pascale Grelot-Girard, adding that they see themselves as a major player in reducing waste. On the side of the United States, the United Kingdom but also Russia, it is also the farmers and breeders who appear to be the most able to act. The major food manufacturers do not even appear in the top 5 players who can act, except in China and the Middle East. “Consumers are perhaps disappointed that manufacturers are not acting as quickly as they can expect,” says Pascale Grelot-Girard. While some manufacturers have already started their transformation, the challenge still remains to adapt to these strong requirements.

Methodology: The Food 360 study carried out by Kantar TNS as part of its partnership with Sial was carried out with a representative sample of 500 people for each country and studies the following geographical areas: France, Spain, Germany, Kingdom United States, United States, Russia, China, Middle East and South East Asia.