In an era when people have to discern fact from fiction every day on their news feeds, the last thing they want to do is play a guessing game about what’s in their food.

A new report from Label Insight and Food Marketing Institute (FMI) shows that consumers are much more loyal to food brands that prioritize transparency over information omission and deception. Not only that, but a staggering percentage — 75% — of customers will switch to a brand that provides in-depth information on and off the product label. That number has nearly doubled in just two years.

Transparency = Trust

Today’s shopper is hungry for more information, especially about the food they buy to nourish themselves and their families. In fact, nearly 70% of consumers say it’s important or extremely important for brands to provide detailed information about what’s in their product and how it’s made. Survey results show information availability is even more important for online shoppers, college grads, and high spenders.  

So, the more transparent companies are about their products, the more trust they’re going to build (and the more sales they’re going to make).

  • 86% of respondents said that if food manufacturers or retailers provided access to complete and easy-to-understand definitions for all the ingredients, it would result in more brand trust
  • 80% said they’re more likely to buy from brands that provide more in-depth information (aside from what’s on the physical label)
  • 54% will pay more for a product that includes additional information

Defining transparency

One of the challenges the food industry faces is that words like transparency aren’t clearly defined in this context. Here’s what the survey respondents mean when they think about transparency from food brands:

  • A complete list of ingredients — 65%
  • Plain English description of all ingredients — 59%
  • In-depth nutritional information — 46%
  • All allergen information — 34%
  • Information about how products are produced — 33%
  • Information about where ingredients are sourced — 33%

There are age differences in how people define the term. For example, Baby Boomers and Gen X correlate transparency with ingredients and nutrition. While those factors are important to Millennials as well, the younger generation goes a step further and gives allergens, claims, and certifications significant weight when considering transparency.  

The health-conscious consumer

The days of crash diets and fad cleanses are quickly coming to a close to make room for long-term, healthy lifestyle changes. And it’s these shoppers — the 47% of survey respondents on a diet or health-related program — who are even more likely to shell out more cash for products with in-depth information.

Of these health-conscious shoppers:

  • 61% will pay more for products that offer in-depth product information
  • 89% will seek out nutrition and ingredient info elsewhere if the label isn’t sufficient
  • 47% would be very likely to use a smartphone in-store to find additional, beyond-the-label information

Transparency for the e-commerce shopper

Millennials, Generation X, and Baby Boomers are all shopping for groceries online. These tech-savvy shoppers have high expectations, and want product information right at their fingertips when they’re crossing items off their grocery list.

  • 76% of online shoppers want more product information than when they’re shopping in the store
  • 72% think being able to mine information is even more important when you’re shopping online
  • 81% will switch to a brand if they offer more information

The reasons for working on being more transparent couldn’t be clearer — it’ll result in more loyal customers and higher sales numbers. And even though there’s no playbook on becoming more transparent, applying these findings isn’t rocket science.

FMI Vice President, Industry Relations, Doug Baker boils it down to this: “The study offers several considerations for how to make the best use of these findings, but overall, they require companies to recognize and communicate the importance of transparency and perform a thorough review of their unique consumer audiences and commerce channels.”

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