HARTLAND - Food labels may generate more frustration than information, according to new State of the Plate Insights research by Charleston|Orwig, Inc.

In two studies with 1,000 consumers across the United States, 63 percent of those surveyed believe that food and beverage label information is “very” or “extremely” important. Yet only 7 percent of them say manufacturers are doing an excellent job of providing the label information they want.

One of the biggest frustrations among consumers relates to nutritional content. When asked what they want to find easily on labels, nutritional information was by far the No. 1 response, named by 71 percent of consumers. What’s more, 41 percent of consumers said that nutritional information had become more important to them in the past two years. Yet only 29 percent of the respondents believe manufacturers are doing a good job of providing the nutritional information they seek.

“This gap opens up an opportunity for food manufacturers and retailers to differentiate themselves and their products by delivering on consumer label expectations,” said Mark Gale, Charleston|Orwig CEO. “Understanding what consumers want on food labels is a critical first step to gaining their trust.”

Other top-of-mind data

While nutritional data is the most critical component of food labels, the study identified other information consumers want readily available:

  • Where the product is made – named by 45.5 percent
  • Ingredient sourcing – named by 44 percent
  • Allergen information – named by 39.5 percent

On the flip side, the following label components were less important to consumers:

  • Information on growers, employees and production sources – named by 15.4 percent
  • Company practices and values – named by 11.7 percent
  • Company background or story – named by 7.8 percent

Labels impact meat purchases

Charleston|Orwig’s State of the Plate Insights study also asked consumers which label claims influence their meat and poultry purchases. “Natural” and “locally raised” were the top two responses, with “free-range” and “cage-free” of lesser importance.

“The results are not surprising, considering that local and natural are easy concepts for consumers to grasp. People may be unsure about language related to how animals are raised,” Gale said.

In total, 53 percent of respondents said label claims made them more likely to purchase a particular meat or poultry product.

“We were surprised to learn that consumers who wanted to see these claims on the label tended to prefer several claims, not just one,” Gale added. “The bottom line: Consumers who care about food labels tend to care a lot. The food industry needs to pay attention to their preferences.”

State of the Plate Insights research is conducted periodically by Charleston|Orwig in cooperation with Menu Matters of Arlington, Vermont. The goal is to identify and understand food trends that impact Charleston|Orwig clients and their customers. Visit the State of the Plate blog for food industry news and updates on recent research.

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