The results show that 80% of consumers look at food labels and food claims. But labels with “organic,” “no hormones added,” and “antibiotic free” shift consumers’ perceptions about what food labels really mean — and not always for the better.
The survey, Truth About Food: The Data asked 3,337 urban consumers in 11 countries about their preferences when buying food.
Here’s what they found.
Consumers buy organic because they believe organic food is more nutritious than conventionally grown food.
- ⅔ of consumers buy organic or “all natural” food because they believe it’s safer and more nutritious.
- 82% of consumers buy organic because they believe organic foods don’t contain pesticides.
- 66% believe an organic label ensures the product includes no artificial ingredients, GMOs, pesticides, or hormones.
- 99% of all consumers who buy organic food expressed confidence in understanding the organic labels.
A landmark Stanford study found no real difference in health or nutrition levels between conventional and organically produced food.
Consumers think “no hormones added” means zero hormones in their food.
- 61% of consumers believe that “no hormones added” means the milk and meat they purchase includes no hormones at all.
- Over half of consumers believe that added hormones cause cancer and early puberty, even though science shows no association between the consumption of milk and early puberty or breast cancer.
Hormones naturally occur in all animals and some plants, so, many foods contain at least some hormones.
Some consumers are confused about “antibiotic free” labeling.
- About ⅓ of consumers believe that products because some products are labeled “antibiotic free,” it means that products without the label do contain antibiotics.
That isn’t the case.
Consumers don’t know who grows their food or how it’s grown.
- 52% believe corporate farms grow their food. 45% believe families run the farms. A small group — 3% — believe the government runs the farms.
- Almost 70% of respondents choose organic food because they believe it’s better for the environment.
In the United States, about 97% of farms are family-owned. Globally, it’s 90%. There’s debate about the sustainability of organic farming. According to the study, organic farming produces 25% less food than modern farming and also requires more land and resources.
Overall, the data show that consumers want to know what’s in their food, but conflicting information makes it hard to decipher fact from fiction.
Making updates to your product labels helps consumers in their quest to understand what they eat. Check out the new nutrition fact labels rolled out in February and consider streamlining your date labeling as recommended by the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute. Both these efforts help consumers understand their food purchases — and reduce food waste on the way.