Research Uncovers Consumer Values Influencing Food Decisions

Jan 25, 2016, 09:00 ET from Deloitte

NEW YORK, Jan. 25, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Taste, price and convenience are no longer the sole deciding factors when people buy food and beverages, according to a new study, from Deloitte, Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA).

The study, "Capitalizing on the Shifting Consumer Food Value Equation," found that roughly half of Americans surveyed (51 percent) weigh "evolving drivers" – health and wellness, safety, social impact, experience and transparency – in their purchasing decisions, in addition to the "traditional drivers" of taste, price and convenience. Moreover, this occurs regardless of demographic factors.

"Contrary to conventional wisdom, it's not just the millennials or most affluent putting these evolving drivers in the mix," said Jack Ringquist, principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP and global consumer products leader. "Our research reveals that the preference for these attributes does not differ by generation, income level or region, but is pervasive across these groups. The U.S. consumer has changed in a fundamental and impactful way, and people's preferences are becoming even more fragmented than the food industry may have anticipated." 

The study also showed a shift in the way people think about food safety. Americans no longer define the concept of food safety based on near-term risks to their health, according to the study. Instead, nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of consumers in Deloitte's "2015 Consumer Food Value Equation" survey believe that a definition of food safety limited to "one that will not cause any immediate, physical, harm" is insufficient. Consumers now link health, wellness and transparency with their definition of safety, and include factors such as free from harmful ingredients (62 percent); clear and accurate labeling (51 percent); and fewer ingredients, processing and nothing artificial (42 percent).

"Food retailers are inherently 'shopper advocates' and they respect that their customers want both genuine and transparent shopping experiences," said FMI Chief Collaboration Officer Mark Baum. "Our study sheds light on how companies can better understand the intersection of these new consumer food values and their own growth strategies."

The joint Deloitte, FMI and GMA study addresses several implications of the shifting value equation for the food and beverage industry –- one where some brands will "double down" on their strengths and focus more specifically on the more-traditional needs, while others invest more and explore evolving needs. Industry implications of the report's findings include: 

  • Consumer tastes and preferences will continue to fragment;
  • Retailers' role influencing consumer purchase decisions will continue to increase;
  • Smaller, newer companies will leverage new technologies, third party relationships and improve engagement to earn consumer trust;
  • Larger competitors within the industry will adjust to fulfill new, unique value propositions; and
  • Market success will be determined by building purpose-driven competitive advantages.

"Today's consumers have a higher thirst for knowledge than previous generations and they are putting the assessment of that information into their value equation," said Jim Flannery, senior executive vice president, operations and industry collaboration at GMA. "There is no doubt that the consumer value equation has changed – as taste, price and convenience are now only the foundation with the need to leverage the emerging value drivers. Brands that win with consumers will likely be those that provide the information they seek, well beyond what is on the label."

For the full "Capitalizing on the Shifting Consumer Food Value Equation" report, please visit: http://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/consumer-business/articles/us-food-industry-consumer-trends-report.html

About the Study
Deloitte, along with the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), conducted a year-long research effort in 2015 that included:

  • A survey of 5,000 consumers nationwide;
  • Interviews with executives from over 40 companies across retailers, food and beverage manufacturers, ingredient suppliers and agricultural producers; and
  • FMI, GMA and Deloitte secondary research.

About Deloitte's Consumer Products Practice
Deloitte is a leading presence in the consumer products industry, providing audit, consulting, risk management, financial advisory and tax services to more than 90 percent of the Fortune 500 consumer product companies. With more than 3,600 professionals in the consumer products practice, Deloitte delivers insights on the latest consumer product issues, effective practices, technology and operating procedures and serves companies across multiple categories including food and beverage, apparel and footwear, personal care and household products. For more information about Deloitte's consumer products practice, visit: http://www.deloitte.com/us/consumerproducts or follow us @DeloitteCB.

About FMI
Food Marketing Institute proudly advocates on behalf of the food retail industry. FMI's U.S. members operate nearly 40,000 retail food stores and 25,000 pharmacies, representing a combined annual sales volume of almost $770 billion. Through programs in public affairs, food safety, research, education and industry relations, FMI offers resources and provides valuable benefits to more than 1,225 food retail and wholesale member companies in the United States and around the world. FMI membership covers the spectrum of diverse venues where food is sold, including single owner grocery stores, large multi-store supermarket chains and mixed retail stores. For more information, visit www.fmi.org and for information regarding the FMI foundation, visit www.fmifoundation.org

About the Grocery Manufacturers Association
The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) is the trade organization representing the world's leading food, beverage and consumer products companies and associated partners. The U.S. food, beverage and consumer packaged goods industry generates $1 trillion in sales annually and contributes $415 billion in added value to the economy every year. It is the single largest U.S. manufacturing industry with 1.7 million manufacturing workers employed in more than 30,000 small and medium-sized communities across the nation. Founded in 1908, GMA has a primary focus on product safety, science-based public policies and industry initiatives that seek to empower people with the tools and information they need to make informed choices and lead healthier lives. For more information, visit http://www.gmaonline.org.

As used in this document, "Deloitte" means Deloitte Consulting LLP, a subsidiary of Deloitte LLP. Please see www.deloitte.com/us/about for a detailed description of the legal structure of Deloitte LLP and its subsidiaries. Certain services may not be available to attest clients under the rules and regulations of public accounting.

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