Consumers choosing to purchase ‘clean’, ‘natural’ products – name brands are no longer enough
A NEW global study has found consumers are shifting towards purchasing products containing ‘natural’ ingredients or are ‘clean’ labelled products.
German-based ingredient supplier Beneo commissioned a poll among 3,000 online consumers in the United States, Germany and the UK, and found that products featuring trigger words such as ‘non-GMO’, ‘natural’, ‘free-from’, or ‘no added sugar’ are more likely to be purchased over product description and brand recognition.
Among survey respondents, ‘no preservatives/made with natural ingredients’ was the claim most closely associated with naturalness.
The study also found 59 per cent of respondents expect products labelled ‘natural’ to be healthy, 53 per cent said they thought it should not be genetically modified, and 50 per cent associate ‘natural’ with high-quality.
Food law expert John Thisgaard, of FoodLegal, a law firm specialising in product and marketing compliance and is also the publisher of Australian Food News, says when businesses make claims about the “natural” qualities of their products it is important they are able to substantiate what they are saying.
“Although there is no strict legal definition on what “natural” means, businesses should be aware of consumer protection legislation that prohibits the making of misleading or deceptive statements,” Mr Thisgaard says.
“Claims such as “natural” and “No artificial colours and flavours” imply a superior quality and may attract a price premium by creating certain expectations in the mind of the consumer.
“It is important that the actual composition of the product meets these expectations.
“The Federal Court of Australia recently emphasised the importance of consumer expectations in relation to “natural” claims.
“In particular, it found that the prominence of the claim, the price of the product and the context in the product is are sold can influence what consumers will expect from a “natural” claim.”
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The consumer watchdog CHOICE’S Katinka Day believes trends such as the one uncovered by the study is underpinned by consumers’ growing appetite for healthier products.
“Increasingly people are concerned about the healthiness of their food and are wanting products that are natural or made from natural ingredients,” she told AFN.
However, Ms Day also warned that trends like these are also a marketers’ opportunity to spruik such natural claims about their products. She said consumers need to be more cautious about products that are claiming to be ‘clean’ or ‘natural’.
“It’s important for people to take claims about ‘naturalness’ with a grain of salt. ‘No artificial colours, flavours or additives’ doesn’t actually mean no additives as the product could still contain ‘natural’ or ‘nature-identical’ additives. Similarly, ‘contains natural sugar’ doesn’t mean a product is low in sugar,” she said.
“With no definition for ‘natural’, it’s important to always check the ingredient list to make sure a product meets your expectations.”
In a move to boost product transparency, the Australian government introduced its voluntary front-of-pack Health Star Rating labelling system in 2014 to give a consumers a like-for-like way to compare similarly packaged products.