With consumer fears escalating about potentially harmful ingredients in food and personal care products, a new survey from Daymon Worldwide reveals that 40 percent of consumers have lost enjoyment of the foods they eat due to safety and quality concerns, and many are actively seeking stores that offer product alternatives. Nearly twice as many parents as non-parents report these anxieties, according to the study.
“Our study digs deeper into consumer behaviors to find out exactly which ingredients and additives cause them the most concern, how that’s changed in the last five years and what they’re willing to do to avoid them,” said Janet Oak, Daymon Worldwide’s head of global advisory and custom shopper insights. “Not surprisingly, consumers are most concerned about ingredients that might cause cancer, such as pesticides, fertilizers and unnecessary additives and preservatives. To avoid risk, consumers are much more likely to visit a grocery retailer or a farmers’ market than a mass merchandiser, and are even more willing to make things from scratch.”
The study reveals that products that manage, prevent and cure health ailments are having the greatest impact on consumer attitudes about food and personal care products. In fact, 53 percent of respondents said that their heightened fears are driving greater demand for food and personal care products with fewer ingredients and stricter safety guidelines.
Food safety on the menu
According to the study, one third of respondents are more concerned about food product safety and quality today than a year ago, and 50 percent are more concerned than five years ago. Specifically, consumers are fearful of the perceived harmful effect on their children’s development due to the presence of MSG, high mercury levels, GMOs, dangerous bacteria, fertilizers and other additives.
Regardless of how accurate concerns are, they are definitely impacting consumer shopping behaviors.
“Consumers are actively taking a variety of measures to avoid the ingredients they’re most worried about, including conducting extensive online research, avoiding stores that offer products with perceived harmful ingredients, and spending more money on fresh items considered healthier,” said Oak. “Retailers and suppliers need to be ready to address these concerns and provide solutions that inspire confidence and retain business.”
Don’t be careless with personal care products
Consumers also have significant fears about the chemicals and additives in their personal care products. Topping the list of concerns are carcinogens, lead, pesticides and formaldehyde, all of which they believe may cause cancer, allergies or be harmful to healthy child development.
“The ingredients considered most negative by consumers are actually in many of the personal care products currently on the market,” said Oak. “For example, lead is present in a variety of cosmetics like eyeliners, mascara and lipstick. Pesticides may be in lip gloss, fragrances, soaps, shampoos and really any product with plant-derived ingredients.
“Interestingly, respondents said they’re more willing to visit a mass or grocery store than a drug store to purchase personal care products void of ingredients they perceive as harmful,” added Oak. “This means drug stores are going to have to change perceptions by increasing product communication, educating associates and generally making health and wellness a top priority.”
Private brand opportunities
Oak notes that opportunities exist for retailers ready to leverage their private brands to meaningfully connect with core consumers making purchase decisions based on ingredient fears.
“Our study found that only 22 percent of consumers believe national brands to be healthier than private brands,” said Oak. “This presents significant business potential for retailers ready to invest in their private brands to surprise and delight their consumers by delivering high-quality, cleaner private brand offerings that also provide savings.”
In addition to partnering with suppliers to offer cleaner ingredient decks in private brand product lines, Oak says all marketing communications about them need to be clear, concise and consistent.
“By making health and wellness an affordable choice for concerned consumers, savvy retailers and suppliers will establish trust that’s well worth the investment,” said Oak.