No longer satisfied with ingredient labels that tell us what our foods and beverages are made with, shoppers are seeking products with shorter ingredient legends and more information about where those ingredients come from. New research confirms that clean eating is on our minds as we shop the supermarket aisles. Shoppers are telling us that simpler really may be better when it comes to our health and the health of our planet. As a consumer health and sustainability trends analyst, I was particularly interested in learning what American consumers are thinking about sustainable ingredients and Malaysian sustainable palm oil.
EcoFocus Worldwide recently released results of our annual national survey of 4,000 Americans ages 18 to 65 years old. We discovered that when we grocery shop, we always/usually/sometimes choose foods and beverages:
- For health reasons (92%)
- For environmental reasons (85%)
If you’re like most people, you’ve been thinking about the nutritional value of many of the items you place into your grocery cart for a long time now. More recently, you may also be giving thought to its environmental impact, and the social and environmental responsibility of the company producing it.
The EcoFocus survey discovered that 57% of grocery shoppers say that a product’s ingredients have a big influence on their opinion of a brand’s eco-friendly reputation. And 56% say country of origin information about ingredients is important to their product choice. Almost two in three shoppers (61%) say they have already heard about sustainable palm oil, and 63% want to learn more about sustainable palm oil.
But how does Malaysian sustainable palm oil, specifically, fit with some of the other opinions and trends we identified? We compared our data on shopper priorities with activities by the Malaysian palm oil industry, described at the recent Global Oils and Fats Forum held in Los Angeles.
Here’s how palm oil matches up with the attitudes of U.S. grocery shoppers:
- 52% say that seeing Non-GMO Project Verified on the labels is extremely or very important. Malaysian palm oil is non-GMO.
- 79% are extremely or very positively influenced by a corporate commitment to protect wildlife. The Malaysian palm oil industry is very actively involved with wildlife conservation, including the establishment of the Malaysian Palm Oil Wildlife Conservation Fund.
- 49% are trying to avoid or limit trans fats. Malaysian palm oil is naturally trans fat free.
- 74% say that a company’s commitment to use ingredients that are certified to be sustainable is extremely or very influential to their purchase decision. About 80% of all palm oil in the U.S. is from Malaysia, where it is produced sustainably.
It still requires a great deal of research to discover the healthiest, most socially responsible foods. There’s a lot more that food suppliers and manufacturers can do to help make our buying decisions easier. I’ll write another blog about that. For now, we can all do our part by choosing nutritious ingredients produced by countries and companies that are also good stewards for our planet.
Linda Gilbert is founder/ former president of HealthFocus International and founder/current CEO for EcoFocus Worldwide LLC (www.ecofocusworldwide.com). Linda has over 30 years’ experience as a market development and strategy consultant linking consumer attitudes and nutrition awareness with product benefits to successfully meet the toughest brand and growth challenges for multi-national B2B and B2C companies. She is a sought-after speaker and has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Advertising Age, American Demographics, The Futurist, Food Processing Magazine, and other venues.