A conscious awakening has occurred within the U.S. consumer packaged goods (CPG) and food grocery landscape. Shoppers are increasingly adopting a “healthy for me, healthy for we” mindset and aligning their personal beliefs with the products they purchase. Across communities and organizations in the U.S., consumers’ overall awareness and interest in reading labels is on the rise. This food and label literacy reflects shoppers’ desire to be more conscious and to make more-informed product decisions and is fueling the demand for greater transparency.
For companies to successfully fulfill this demand, they need to be in tune to what causes and concerns consumers care about. Why? Because what consumers care about today will fuel the transparency claims of tomorrow. So what do consumers care about? And what topics are currently top-of-mind or rising in ranks? A recent NielsenIQ study identified 16 hot topics related to today’s food/grocery industry and noted Americans’ level of awareness and interest in these topics. The research showed that social awareness varied widely, with no one topic tipping the majority.
Consumers’ love for local endures
Within this study, buying local had the highest consumer awareness, topping the chart at 46%. It is clear that consumers are aware of the importance of buying local and continue to show a hunger for hometown, locally grown products, especially for items such as produce, baked goods, and eggs.
Interestingly, on the other end of the scale, just 13% of consumers were aware of the topic of carbon footprint of shipping and transporting foods long distances.
Interest in transparency claims is growing—particularly among younger consumers
Beyond general awareness, the study’s findings reveal that consumers are showing interest in learning more about bee health, pesticides, and antibiotic use claims. The same study dove deeper into understanding consumers’ level of interest by asking those respondents that were aware of a topic what their interest was in learning more. Nearly every claim tipped the majority scale with only two falling below: livestock’s impact on climate change (49%) and fair trade (48%). Younger shoppers lead the way in wanting more information, with Millennials and Gen X having the most interest in learning more about all but two topics—trade tariffs and sugar reduction, which the Greatest Generation had more interest in.
Are shoppers putting dollars toward their interests?
Aligned with their personal beliefs, consumers are purchasing products that matter most to them. Looking at the top 10 topics of interest to consumers in the same study, dollar sales of locally grown/sourced (3.6%), no added sugar (1.8%), free from GMO (7.8%), and antibiotic-free (3.6%) products were all up during the 52-week period ending Dec 29. 2018. Interestingly, though, despite consumers’ awareness of the decline in bee populations, dollar sales of bee by-products such as food items with honey in them have grown by 39% over the past year.
As consumers’ interests continue to diverge, it is critical to understand what topics are truly the most important to your consumer, category, and brand. The loudest voices are not always the most numerous, and dedicated research to understand their awareness, interest, and motivation to change are key table stakes for companies’ business strategies.