Food label claims: Clearing up the confusion

Consumers are focused on looking for a products shelf-life and how healthy the ingredients are above all else. Ease in reading the label and product health benefits are paramount for local artisan food manufacturers.

Packaging and labeling trends are important to specialty food manufacturers as they serve to attract consumers to their product. Mintel, the world’s leading market intelligence agency, weighs on the latest packaging and labeling trends.

According to Mintel’s U.S. June, 2018 report entitled "Food Packaging Trends", slightly more than one in ten shoppers reported that packaging is becoming too cluttered with information, pointing to a need for easy to read labeling. Younger shoppers are more likely to have a positive perception of photographs of ingredients, suggesting a preference for “show me” vs “tell me”. Another 74 percent of food shoppers in the study reported that the expiration date on the package is the most important information on the package that they look for. This expiration date, or freshness, is important to such consumers. The second most important factor of the label to consumers was found to be the ingredients of the product with 66 percent looking for this information. Finally, the third most important factor was number of calories found in the product with 49 percent looking for this information. According to Mintel, women and older shoppers are the most likely consumers to read this information on the package.

According to Mintel’s U.S. October, 2017 report entitled "Free-From Food Trends", consumers are much more likely to cite “healthy lifestyle” as their reason for avoidance of undesirable ingredients like gluten or dairy than an actual need to avoid foods due to food allergy. Therefore, these consumers want to feel healthier or notice distinct health improvements from the products they buy.

Mintel identifies that supermarkets are capturing 64 percent of the purchases for those looking for free-from product. This shows how mass merchandisers like Target and Walmart have both “improved and increased their range of food/beverage options to the point that mass merchandisers are shopped nearly as frequently for foods with a free-from claim”. The natural supermarkets, with their focus on offering fresh, organic, or relatively unprocessed products, is capturing 49 percent in comparison.

Consumers, however, also have a distrust of what they read on the labeling for premade food products. The study shows 74 percent want more transparency is food ingredients and 71 percent believe there are more harmful ingredients in products than what manufacturers are divulging. “This lack of trust in the ingredient legends and in the brands themselves appears to be influencing about half of the consumers to cook from scratch, rather than turn to convenient free-from options”, reports Mintel. “Cleaner labels and products with fewer ingredients are regarded as inherently healthier, and those brands are in prime position to capitalize on consumer interest in health and nutrition”.

The MSU Product Center, in partnership with Michigan State University Extension, provides business counseling for product development and marketing strategies that will help Michigan entrepreneurs commercialize high-value, consumer–responsive food products. For more information, visit the MSU Product Center website or call 517-432-8750.

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