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Cargill’s “FATitudes” survey reveals changing consumer attitudes toward fats and oils in packaged goods

May 28, 2020
Food & Drink

Sixty-eight percent of consumers worldwide are closely monitoring the type and amount of fat and oil in their packaged food, according to a new global FATitudes study from Cargill.

The study confirmed that consumers track what goes into their bodies by closely reading labels of packaged foods – and olive, avocado and fish oils are scoring highly in terms of health.

“Food is becoming increasingly personalized; consumers are basing their purchasing decisions on specific ingredients. At the same time, society is pushing food ingredient companies to develop more healthy, nutritious products,” Florian Schattenmann, Chief Technical Officer and Vice President of Innovation and R&D at Cargill tells FoodIngredientsFirst.

FATitudes is conducted by Cargill annually to learn more about consumers’ awareness, perceptions and behaviors around fats and oils found in packaged foods, and to help inform the future of food innovation. This year, approximately 6,600 primary household grocery shoppers were surveyed in 12 countries including the US, Germany, China, Brazil and the UK.

A large proportion of consumers (70 percent) report the amount of fat and type of oil are important factors when determining which packaged foods to purchase. Moreover, how often consumers read labels differs by geography. Chinese consumers pay the most attention (89 percent), and German consumers monitor the least (48 percent), according to the latest stats.

The study also revealed that nearly two-thirds (61 percent) of US consumers avoid certain fats or oils, and among those who rank as “clean label seekers,” 83 percent report avoiding certain fats or oils, like saturated and trans fats.

“We asked participants about their perceptions about fats and oils in salad dressings, potato chips, doughnuts, cookies, pie, granola bars, tortilla chips, breads and crackers,” says Jamie Mavec, Marketing Manager of Cargill Global Edible Oil Solutions. “They report monitoring fats and oils carefully in all those food products and say they avoid saturated fats and trans fats [in countries in which they are still in use].”

As for specific packaged foods, for instance, in the US, 53 percent of consumers report paying close attention to the fats and oils in salad dressing, reveals Mavec. Meanwhile, 45 percent of UK consumers say they pay attention to fats and oils in salad dressing. Consumers in the UK and US monitor fats and oils in potato chips at the same rate – 51 percent. For German consumers, it’s 44 percent for potato chips and 43 percent for salad dressings.

Delivering insights to drive food innovation
Sonia Punwani, Global Bakery Leader, Cargill Global Edible Oil Solutions tells FoodIngredientsFirst that consumer perceptions about the healthfulness of different fats and oils vary considerably. “For instance, we found that olive oil tops the list in every country for impact on purchase and perceptions of healthfulness in packaged foods,” she continues.

“Avocado oil and fish oil also scored highly with consumers in many countries. A vast majority of global consumers (93 percent) were aware of omega 3, which is an important nutrient with many health benefits that some consumers don’t get through their typical diets. Also, a majority of consumers also say that a fat-related claim, such as lower saturated fat, makes them more likely to purchase a product,” Punwani explains.

However, consumers also seem unsure of what makes a fat or oil healthy. The study found US consumers’ awareness of the healthfulness of poly and mono-unsaturated fats to be low (19 and 20 percent, respectively).

Cargill conducts proprietary consumer research such as FATitudes because “it provides a guidepost for us and our customers on food innovation,” adds Punwani. It helps shape thinking and priorities around whether to revitalize tried-and-true products or develop a new frying oil or bakery shortening to adapt to changing tastes and health preferences. “To address the trends, we offer a broad portfolio of fat and oil solutions, including our Clear Valley line, which has a high oleic canola-based product with lower saturated fat,” she comments.

“Using consumer insights helps us innovate in ways that balance the societal pressures with individual preferences to create more healthful, sustainable and cost-effective products,” adds Schattenmann.

Changing consumer behaviors 
According to Nese Tagma, Managing Director of Strategy and Innovation for Cargill’s global edible oils business, consumers’ attitudes toward fats and oils have shifted in recent years, and Cargill knows that consumers are interested in consuming healthy amounts of oils. “This research is vital to guide our thinking on whether to revitalize tried-and-true products or develop a new frying oil to adapt to changing tastes and health options,” she explains.

Meanwhile, Allison Webster, Director of Research and Nutrition Communications for International Food Information Council (IFIC), emphasizes the importance of this global perspective. “IFIC’s US-based consumer research consistently shows that while nutrition information, expiration date and ingredients lists are most often consulted when deciding what to eat, labels and health claims are also highly influential on food purchasing decisions,” she says.

“Cargill’s FATitudes survey looks at similar perceptions and behaviors specifically related to fats and oils, this time from an international vantage point. These global perspectives shed light on important differences between countries and provide critical insights into how people around the world think about two all-important questions: ‘What should I eat, and why?’” she muses.

“Our market and consumer insight work continues both for topical studies, such as FATitudes, and for on-going, consumer perception tracking via Cargill’s proprietary IngredienTracker which monitors overall trends in food and beverages. Our 2020 FATitudes survey of US consumers will be conducted this summer,” concludes Mavec.

By: Elizabeth Green

Source: Food Ingredients First

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