The US food industry is facing increasing pressure to alleviate safety concerns after a report launched today suggested that almost half of Americans had actively changed their shopping habits in the last 12 months following a food scare.
The report, "Food in 2020: What’s trending for US shoppers?", launched by global food safety certification experts, Lloyd’s Register, follows a survey of over 1,000 United States consumers.
Highlighting the growing demands of consumers, the report also revealed serious concerns around food waste. Indeed, 88% of US shoppers see food waste as a ‘big problem’, while two-thirds don’t believe enough is being done by large food brands to tackle the growing issue.
To add to these findings, 67% believe the world’s biggest food brands are not doing enough to tackle plastic waste. However, despite these concerns, only 18% of consumers consider food waste as a personal priority when choosing a food product. While demands on retailers and restaurants are clear, these results indicate a level of contradiction or conflict between consumer habits and expectations.
Stuart Kelly, Global Head of Commercial at Lloyd’s Register, commented: “The research provides a brief overview of the food shopping habits of US consumers. While there are some contradictions in place, the research reveals growing demands on retailers and restaurants relating to food waste, plastic use and safety concerns.
“One of the stand-out statistics that should raise alarm bells for the food industry is the willingness of consumers to actively change their shopping habits as a result of a food scare. As an industry, we understand that food processes are extremely safe, however the report suggests that negative headlines around safety is perhaps having a more significant impact on buying trends than first realised.
“The question we must ask now is, how can the food industry come together and overcome these barriers?”
The research also suggests a lack of confidence in labelling and food information, with only 48% saying they were ‘fairly confident’ that food listed as organically farmed is authentic.
Vegan products also come under the microscope, with the report showing how only one-fifth of respondents are very confident that vegan or plant-based alternatives do not contain meat. Perhaps surprisingly, only 37% believe these vegan products are a more environmentally-friendly choice when compared to meat, despite growing evidence of its green credentials.
Stuart comments: “Veganism continues to grow, but our research shows scepticism surrounding the products. Only one-third of respondents, for example, believe meat substitutes are a healthier option, while many are not entirely confident that they are suitable for a vegan diet.
“The reality is that the food we eat is the safest and most authentic it has ever been. This mistrust and credibility gap in consumers’ minds needs addressing and the food industry must come together to alleviate concerns. With a high percentage of US shoppers wanting to know the precise ingredients in all products, it is important for all suppliers to question how this can be achieved and what can be done to allay these doubts.”