The Flavor | Unique Insight on the Industry

Who Cares about Your Claims

Consumers increasingly consider health when making food and beverage purchases, but not every consumer looks for the same health claim. Here are some of the most popular health claims and what shoppers think of them.

“Gluten-Free”

Between 2012 and 2014, sales of gluten-free foods increased by 63% according to a Mintel Research study, and a 2015 Gallup poll found that one in five Americans eat gluten-free foods.

Consumers who care about gluten-free claims tend to be healthier eaters, more concerned with ethics, and more influenced by natural and organic ingredients. Of gluten-free eaters, 11% are strictly gluten-free, 44% are trying to avoid as many products with gluten as possible, and 25% are not all that worried about gluten and only eat gluten-free foods once in a while. Non-white consumers are more likely than white consumers to include gluten-free foods in their diets, and Millennials, more than any other age group, make 28% of gluten-free purchases in the US.

Interestingly, many consumers view gluten-free products as not tasting great. Some complain that gluten-free bread tastes like cardboard or paper, for instance.

“Natural”

Despite how common they are, natural claims are on the decline among new food and beverage products in the US. Data from Mintel show that 11% of new products made natural claims in 2015 compared with 12.6% the prior year. Speaking to the results of the 2016 Market LOHAS MamboTrack consumer research survey, Karen Herther and Bethany Stanley, principals of the study, explain, “Savvy health-aware consumers are skeptical about the natural label and are looking for known ingredient certifications like USDA organic and non-GMO. They’re also relying on trusted brands.”

“Non-GMO”

Non-GMO claims have vastly increased in the last few years. Mintel data show that 15.7% of new US products made non-GMO claims in 2015 compared with just 2.8% in 2012.

Although the vast majority of scientists agree that GM foods are safe to eat, consumers still distrust GMOs and value the non-GMO label. In fact, a HealthFocus International report found that 87% of consumers view non-GMO foods as healthier, 63% think that products from genetically modified corn are less safe to eat, and 55% think that genetically modified crops are worse for the environment. The report summarizes, “GMOs rank within the top five food concerns globally. GMO concern is even surpassing ingredient concerns such as sugar, sodium, hydrogenated oil and artificial ingredients.”

“Organic”

Organic claims are on the rise. In 2015, 13.5% of new US products made organic claims while 10.7% of new products made such claims in 2014. Further, a recent survey by the Organic Trade Association found that organic foods represent a growing category that comprises over 5% of the country’s total food sales. Sales last year of organic foods rose 8.4% compared to the food market’s overall growth rate of 0.6%.

While organic consumers are a varied group, families and kids make up a significant portion. A 2013 study found that 81% of families purchase organic products at least sometimes. Many consumers, families included, choose organic for health and environmental reasons.

“Vegan”

The number of vegetarians and vegans in the US is on the rise with more rapid growth coming from the vegan segment. A report by GlobalData on top 2017 prepared foods trends found that 6% of US consumers now claim to be vegan – a huge increase from just 1% of consumers in 2014. Many individuals who do not identify as vegan (for example, those with food allergies, loved ones of vegan eaters, and people trying to cut back on meat consumption) also look for vegan claims.

Understandably, vegan claims have risen in the last few years. Mintel data show that 7.2% of new US products made vegan claims in 2015 compared with 5.1% the year before.

Vegans don’t just want to see vegan claims; they want to see those claims on good-tasting foods. In fact, how long a given person sticks with veganism partly depends on how well she eats. Bob Burke, principal at Natural Products Consulting, clarifies, “To be vegan for the sake of being vegan might appeal to a small section of the population, but for everyone else, taste, freshness and quality ingredients are important.”

Vegan claims on comfort foods may especially stand out. Consumer research manager for the Vegetarian Resource Group, John Cunningham, explains, “The things that make the most buzz among the vegan community are snacks and desserts. Vegans feel very passionately about their desserts.”

Whether “Gluten-Free” or “Vegan,” health claims on-pack are sure to matter to certain consumers. Use this research on consumers and claim trends to better determine which health claims are most important for your food or beverage product.

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