Quality concerns drop with rising consumer engagement: Survey

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Consumers Food Nutrition

US consumers have become less concerned about the quality of the food they eat despite a growing awareness of food recalls, according to Deloitte’s 2010 Consumer Food Safety Survey.

In a nationally representative survey of 1,102 consumers carried out by an independent research company, 90 percent of respondents said they believed food recalls were on the rise – a similar proportion to Deloitte’s 2008 findings. However, consumers’ concern about the quality of food on their plates has dropped by 17 percent during that time, to 65 percent.

Deloitte's vice chairman and US consumer products practice leader Pat Conroy said: "The decline in consumers' concern for quality from our 2008 survey is due, in part, by their need to become more aware and engaged in choosing the products they buy."

In other words, consumers are taking a greater interest in health, nutrition and the origin of their foods, and are reading product labels more often.

The proportion of consumers who said they frequently or always read the ingredients list on unfamiliar packaged food products prior to purchase rose to 53 percent from 50 percent two years ago, Deloitte said.

And the recently introduced country of origin labeling (COOL) has gone down well with consumers: 51 percent said it influenced their purchases, while 45 percent said they would like to be able to access country of origin information via the internet for processed and packaged foods.

But even though consumers may be more interested in where their foods come from and what they contain, only 45 percent said they understood at least three-quarters of what they read on ingredients lists.

Conroy said the survey should be a “red flag”​ for industry, showing that consumers expect them to communicate nutritional benefits, as well as messages about quality and safety.

He said: “Over the past two years, we have seen a significant shift in how consumers view the foods they purchase. Though our survey still shows health and safety as the top two concerns facing Americans, the percentages have dropped and consumers are using their increased knowledge of food products to raise concerns around over-processed foods. Food companies are now dealing with an engaged consumer who actively seeks to understand the products they are looking to buy."

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