When less is more

Foods claiming to be “free” from a variety of attributes are in demand.

Today’s consumers have a growing consciousness of their own health and the health of the planet, and they are looking carefully at food labels to insure that they are purchasing products that reflect those values. Keying in on “free from…” phrases on food packages, consumers are seeking to act on their beliefs, and products with the fewest and least processed ingredients seem to be most desirable. Some of the most common free-from claims involve transfats, preservatives, GMO, sodium, and various allergens (eggs, nuts, etc.). Only one-third of consumers feel that “less is worth more” in a dollar sense, however.

According to Mintel, a food industry market intelligence agency, “43 percent of consumers agree that free-from foods are healthier than foods without a free-from claim, while another three in five believe the fewer ingredients a product has, the healthier it is. Despite this, just 37 percent of consumers overall agree that products with free-from claims are worth paying more for.”

In response to these desires, more products are being brought to market with free-from statements. In one example, Mintel states, “In 2010, 11 percent of food product launches featured a low/no/reduced allergen claim. By 2014, 28 percent of food product launches boasted the claim, the highest of any free-from claim last year.”

The Hartman Group seems to agree, “As a mark of premium distinction, foods and beverages with a local angle have been rising stars within a crowded field of designations that speak to premium quality, including organic and natural, "free-of" products and those that are artisanal or handmade..”

Keeping these insights in mind can pay big dividends for entrepreneurs who might be considering bringing a new food product to market!

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

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