Low-sugar and low-sodium foods are more important to consumers than their low-fat counterparts, according to a new survey from market research agency GfK.
GfK asked 23,000 consumers online in 17 countries how important certain factors were, from a given list, when deciding what to eat or drink. The final figures represent the proportion of respondents that said a claim was either ‘very important’ or ‘extremely important’.
With consumers turning their backs on sugar, 48% of respondents rated a product being low in sugar as very high on their agenda.
Foods that were free from genetically modified ingredients scored the same percentage, driven by sustained interest in non-GMO foods from US consumers.
Next was low-in-sodium foods on 45%, with gluten-free foods scoring a surprisingly low 26%. Indeed, the darling of the free-from aisle was considered less important than products with probiotics or prebiotics, and foods fortified with vitamins and minerals.
The research highlights consumers’ changing perceptions of food and drink, and which ingredient claims are most important to them.
The picky thirties
The most selective food and drink shoppers are those aged 30-39 years old. This group nearly always has the highest percentage, rating factors as ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ important, GfK said. Also of note is that products which are organic, fortified with vitamins or minerals, pre- or pro-biotic or gluten-free are more important amongst people aged under 40 years old than amongst those aged 40 plus.
Higher income, higher demand
As expected, people from high-income households put consistently higher importance on all the claims compared to lower-income households. Among high-income households, the most important factors are GMO-free (55%), low sugar or sugar-free (54%) and low sodium or low salt (52%). Among low income households, GMO-free and low sugar or sugar-free are also the top two, but mentioned by a significantly lower percentage of respondents (44% and 43% respectively). The third most important factor for this low-income group is a tie between organic products and products fortified with vitamins or minerals (41%).
Little to choose between sexes
Gender makes next to no difference in how people rate the decision factors. Men are very slightly more likely than women to place importance on local products, fortified products, gluten-free and prebiotics or probiotics, but GfK said the difference in each case is only three percentage points.
Chinese consumers are the most selective on what to eat and drink out of the 17 countries surveyed. In eight out of the nine decision factors researched, China tops the list for placing the greatest importance on that claim. The one remaining category is locally produced products, where Italy takes the lead.
The greatest difference between China and other nations is seen when it comes to preference for prebiotic or probiotic food. Here, China is 21% ahead of the next closest country with over half of its online population placing high importance on this area.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2017