Charleston|Orwig worked with research firms, Maeve Webster of Menu Matters and Confidential Consumer, to conduct a poll asking 500 Americans (260 women and 233 men) about their perceptions and food buying preferences related to clean food labels.
Approximately 41% of Americans actively seek products with clean labels with some regularity, and almost half of those purchasers are millennials under the age of 35. However, 30% of individuals who purchase clean labels with some regularity are older than 55. Another takeaway is that men have a higher interest in clean label than women.
“Interest in clean food labels does not skew more heavily young or old, but reflects how informed consumers are about healthy eating and what drives them to purchase clean labels,” said Mark Gale, CEO of Charleston|Orwig.
The research also found that there is a significant segment of the population (48%) that is 'unaware" or has "never heard of" of clean label and does not factor the concept into their food and beverage purchasing decisions.
While there is no singular definition of clean label, younger consumers who purchase such products do so for more emotional or moral reasons compared to older consumers. For example, while millennial consumers tended to respond to claims of general health benefits touted in many clean label claims, they also believe clean label products are better for the environment.
However, the main purchase driver for purchasing clean label products is health, according to the poll. Nearly half (49.4%) of respondents across ages said that they purchase clean label products because they believe it's healthier for them and their families.
“People now know, and care, about what the cow ate that made the milk that made the yogurt that is in their breakfast parfaits. And no matter where you are in the value chain, from farmer to processor to manufacturer to retailer to restaurant, food is under greater scrutiny than ever. Combine this with the recognition that ingredients matter, sometimes as much as the finished product, and it’s reasonable to predict that the percentage of the population looking for clean is likely to grow," said Gale.
The consumer poll revealed that older Americans are more focused on health and have more disposable income which makes them an important demographic target for food companies. According to Charleston|Orwig, this older group indicates higher agreement with common clean label drivers. Half of consumers over the age of 65 indicated not trusting unrecognizable ingredients, wariness of artificial additives, and a strong desire for easy-to-understand labels overall as their primary reasons for seeking out clean label products.
Past research by Charleston|Orwig found that, overall, two-thirds of adult respondents said food label are "very important" while 71% of consumers they would like to see nutritional information that is ready to read.
Consumers over the age of 55 also showed interest in functional foods that deliver specific health benefits such as better sleep, faster recovery from workouts, or greater mental acuity.