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Kira Karapetian

By: Kira Karapetian on July 7th, 2016

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Food Revolution: Exploring Consumer Confusion and Distrust

Trends & Research

Label Insight was built on a belief in transparency. We believe the more we know about what’s in the products we use and consume, the more we can make smart purchase decisions. But for brands and retailers, the path to transparency isn’t easy. Consumers have different views on what information they want and who can be trusted to share this information.

To answer these questions and gain a better understanding of consumer expectations around product transparency, we launched our first Food Revolution Study. We explored how consumers make food choices, where they shop and what they expect from brands when it comes to product information. In the coming weeks, we’ll publish a series of posts that highlight our biggest learnings and the opportunities they create for brands and retailers.

Welcome to Part 1.

Learning 1: Lack of product information creates distrust and confusion amongst consumers.

Our study found that consumers lack access to the information they’re looking for in order to make informed purchase decisions. Even when more information is provided, they don’t fully understand what it means due to inconsistency and information overload. As a result, they typically do not know what is in the food they consume on a daily basis and have lost significant trust in brands to provide the right information.

This is a big deal. Let’s look at the data for more context.

More than a third of respondents (35 percent) admit they are sometimes confused by what the labels on food packages are actually saying, and nearly two in five (38 percent) say they are concerned about eating products that have information on the label they do not recognize.

And perhaps most alarming for brands, only a quarter of consumers say they trust the completeness and accuracy of food labels. This means that a majority of respondents (75 percent) have no choice but to consume food from brands they do not trust, and nearly two-thirds are consuming ingredients they find confusing to understand.


Download the Entire Food Revolution Study Now

Due to a general lack of information and confusion, most respondents also reported having recently consumed products containing unfamiliar ingredients. The majority of consumers (81 percent) have consumed a packaged product with an ingredient they didn’t recognize at some point in the past month and nearly one in five (18 percent) consume products with ingredients they don’t recognize daily.

Closing the Information Gap

It’s clear that some shoppers feel in the dark about the foods they buy and eat, and the result is a lack of trust in the information that is shared and the brands that share it. Why? Think about it like this: Today, shoppers can quickly jump online and pull directions to anywhere in the world, find recipes for dinner based on what they have in their cabinets, research the best child psychologist in town within 5 minutes, and even make an informed decision about expensive electronics and have it on their doorstep the next day (thank you, Amazon).

Mobile technology and ubiquitous connectivity have created an expectation among consumers for on-demand, specific information about everything. But they can’t find information about packaged foods beyond what’s listed on the label. It’s like the food industry is giving digital and mobile the cold shoulder.

This is a problem. But one that can be rectified if the industry increases available product information and improves access to and understanding of that information. Luckily, initiatives like SmartLabel™ are doing just that. When a brand participates in SmartLabel it means shoppers can quickly access detailed product information from their smartphone or desktop computer -- from allergens and ingredients to certifications and sustainability. They can even access ingredient definitions, easing confusion and frustration.

This is the new landscape of loyalty, where brands that can meet consumer expectations for product information and create a new dynamic of trust, convenience and long term value.

Not sure how SmartLabel works, or if your company is ready? 

read smart label faq

If you’re ready to dive in, let us know!

Of course, this begs the question: What information do consumers care about the most and how does this affect brands? Our study has the answers, so stay tuned for future posts or download the entire study today!