With the growing demand by consumers in favor of products that contain natural ingredients or products without additives or artificial colourings, GNT had recently commissioned a comprehensive quantitative and qualitative survey to assess consumer attitudes globally. This research, done by TNS, hopes to uncover what consumers perceive as 'natural' and 'healthy', so as to facilitate food manufacturers in designing future products to meet these needs.
A total of 5,175 consumers from 10 countries were interviewed, with 175 involved in qualitative online group discussions. GNT interviewed online consumers from 3 major Asian countries namely China, Indonesia and Thailand.
Apparently, the survey found that consumers prefer to buy products that have clear and easily understood ingredients label, and the things they look for include 'no artificial additives', 'no preservatives' and 'free from artificial colors ' amongst others.
According to the survey, Colour is also a key factor that affects consumers' decision making process as they often associate colour of a product with taste, brand, value, freshness or quality. Consumers also mind on the type of food coloring used, with more than half of them prefer use of natural coloring in foods. In addition, 42% of the respondents expect natural coloring to originate from edible raw materials such as fruits and vegetables. The GNT survey also found that only 5% of respondents can accept synthetic (artificial) colorings.
The survey also sought to understand consumers' definition of products that are described as 'natural'. A vast majority of them (79%) believe that natural products should have no artificial colours or no preservatives, while 77% of respondents think that natural products should either have no artificial flavors, no artificial sweeteners or be produced in its natural state.
The survey also looked into 4 major product segments namely soft drinks, sweets, yogurt and ice cream. The survey findings showed that consumers are aware of the use of synthetic additives in sweets and soft drinks although they do not approve of its use. Yogurt is the category in which 2/3 of respondents will not accept the use of additives and would only like it to contain natural ingredients. As for soft drinks and sweets, substituting the use of additives with natural ingredients can help particular brands to stand out and motivate consumer purchase.
In addition, the survey also uncovered 5 types of consumers globally in terms of their shopping behaviours, with more than 1/3 of them categorised into 'Busy Health Seekers' i.e. busy working but health-conscious adults usually within the age group of 25 to 44. Meanwhile, about 22% of the respondents belong to the category of 'Convenience Seekers' i.e. consumers that look for simple and quick meals regardless of the ingredients contents, and they are usually men from the age of 18 to 34 years old. As such, manufacturers are advised to develop products tailored to these consumer categories.
In terms of consumer demographics, about 82% of parents place great value on natural products compared to 67% from singles or people with no children.
Food manufacturers have to do a lot of catching up as less than 16% of consumers felt that products sold in stores are sufficiently natural, while 45% of them do not believe in products or brands with 'natural' claim.