Label Insight survey reveals loosely-defined claims such as 'natural' still have pull with consumers

By Mary Ellen Shoup

- Last updated on GMT

 ©GettyImages / andresr
©GettyImages / andresr

Related tags natural claims Clean label Label Insight

While terms such as a 'natural' and 'clean label' may not have a regulated definition attached to them, these particular descriptors do motivate over half of US shoppers to purchase a product, a new survey of 1,000 adults conducted by Wakefield Research for Label Insight found.

Despite the lack standard definition, the term "natural"​ for many consumer has come to mean the absence of artificial flavors, artificial sweeteners, artificial preservatives, and color additives in minimally-processed products. According to Label Insight​'s database, there are 21,838 food and beverage products containing the phrase "all natural"​ marketing claim on package. 

The survey showed that more than half of shoppers (51%) were also swayed by "no preservatives",​ particularly older generations. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of baby boomers say a product with that claim would motivate them to buy compared to Gen X (46%) and millennials (41%).

Sugar concerns

According to the survey, sugar content, a concern for many shoppers, was found to be less of a worry for older adults: 57% of adults 65 and years and older say a product labeled "no high fructose corn syrup"​ would motivate them to purchase the product compared to adults aged 55-64 (47%), 45-54 (44%), 35-44 (38%) and 18-34 (34%).

Sugar is still a deterrent for American shoppers of all ages. Nearly half (46 percent) would be more likely to buy something labeled "low sugar." Label Insight noted that 10,352 food and beverage products making marketing claims relative to "low sugar diet"​ or "sugar free"​, as compared to more than 92,000 products that qualify for a "low sugar diet"​ or "sugar free"​ based on the products' complete product profile, as determined by Label Insight's ingredient analysis.

Similar dynamics seem to hold true for high fructose corn syrup. Products making a "free from high fructose corn syrup"​ marketing claim are seen in 9,211 food and beverage products, while there are more than 300,000 products that qualify based on the products' complete product profile, as determined by Label Insight's ingredient analysis.

The meat of it

Another category experiencing increased interest in claims made on pack is in the poultry, seafood, and livestock space, where consumers increasingly want to know the conditions under which the food they're eating was raised. Label Insight found that shoppers are more likely to buy meat labeled as "antibiotic free" (34%), "free range" (26%), and grass-fed (25%); while the term "pasture raised" influenced 17% of consumers. 

Within the Label Insight's product database, 467 of products make a "free range"​ claim and nearly twice that amount (862) make a "pasture raised claim"​. 

Opportunity for brand transparency

The increased attention to label claims shows that consumers are looking for transparency from brands, manufacturers, and retailers, noted Dagan Xavier, senior vice president of data and co-founder of Label Insight.

"These results validate the mainstream demand for cleaner, greener, and more forthcoming products,"​ Xavier said. 

"More and more, the everyday consumer is concerned about the products they are consuming on a daily basis. Yet these particular claims we surveyed are loosely regulated by the government, meaning that consumers need to advocate for transparency and accuracy in labeling. It's also worth noting that in our own analysis of these terms, far more CPG brands could legitimately be using these marketing claims on thousands of products in order to better meet the consumer demand for transparency."

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