What will ditching artificial ingredients really do for big CPG brands?

By Elaine Watson contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Brand management, Us

While ditching ‘artificial’ ingredients may not transform the fortunes of flagging legacy brands, consumer survey data from Instantly suggests it may give consumers a warmer and fuzzier feeling about them, and convey the impression (deservedly or otherwise) that the reformulated products are ‘healthier’.

In a poll of 4,200 US consumers drawn from Instantly’s army* of shoppers, 82% of respondents agreed with the statement that ‘Food products with artificial ingredients are less healthy than food products with natural ingredients​.’

Meanwhile, 79% said they would view a brand that removed artificial ingredients more positively, and 75% claimed they would be more likely to purchase it.

Who made it is just as important as what’s in it

Before brand managers start cracking open the champagne and waiting for sales to surge after axing aspartame, sodium benzoate and Yellow #6 from their wares, however, 68% of consumers surveyed also said that the company manufacturing the product is an important factor to consider when making a purchase decision.

In other words, whether consumers have a positive or negative perception of your company/brand may well color how they view your stance on natural/artificial ingredients.

This is also supported by the response to the question, ‘Which type of company would you trust most to produce all-natural products?’ where just 25% of respondents said a ‘large, established company’, and 75% said a ‘small, independent company’, again suggesting that attitudes towards ‘no artificial’ or ‘all-natural’ claims are colored by consumer perceptions of the brand/business overall.

The findings also reflect what successive speakers from Hartman Group stressed to delegates at a recent seminar on health and wellness​ in Seattle, that when consumers are looking at food products, they are increasingly asking, ‘How was it made?’ and ‘Who made it?’ as well as ‘What’s in it?’

Instantly poll natural
instantly more
artificial poll instantly

Health halo created by ‘no artificial’ claims is category-specific

What is also striking about the findings, is that the apparent health halo conferred upon brands that ditch artificial ingredients varies considerably by category.

So, for example, just 16% of consumers said removing artificial sweeteners from candy would make it healthier, while a whopping 72% felt that removing artificial sweeteners from cereals and cereal bars would make them healthier.   

healthier-instantly poll

Click HERE ​to see the full results from the online survey, which was conducted between September 15 and September 21 via the iPoll​ website and mobile application​.

*Instantly​ has access to an army of more than 350,000 primary grocery shoppers across the United States and 55,000+ in the UK, who have downloaded its app to their smartphones and agreed to participate in real-time market research tasks when they go shopping in return for small instant cash incentives and gift cards. 

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2 comments

sometimes artificial ingredients are a good thing

Posted by William Sweeney,

While I will cheer any brand that replaces a single isomer vanillin with a much tastier multi-isomer natural bean extract, I fear that the wholesale removal of preservatives and anti-oxidants will make for a LESS safe and LESS tasty food supply, particularly where seed oils are involved.

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The Cost of Not Doing Anything

Posted by David Rigg,

Great article overall. However, the cost of continuing to come across as 'not listening' to consumers is something to be considered as well.

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