Food and beverage manufacturers need to overcome trust barriers with consumers when it comes to “free-from” claims, according to new research from Mintel.
A survey of 1,600 Canadians found four in five shoppers buy products with free-from claims, but 65% think free-from claims are a way for companies to charge more. So, why are Canadians gobbling up free-from products even though many think it’s a marketing ploy?
Joel Gregoire, senior food and drink analyst at Mintel, says the fact that 80% of Canadians have bought free-from products is a testament to how commonly claims are used.
“It’s difficult to go grocery shopping without purchasing any food or beverages that don’t have some sort of free-from claim on them,” he says. “The challenge is that many of these claims are diluted as they become so prevalent.”
Gregoire says packaging with numerous claims can lead to confusion, especially when those claims aren’t relevant to the product. For example, many companies have looked to capitalize on the gluten-free trend, so much so they’re putting gluten-free claims on products that typically don’t include gluten. That’s bound to foster mistrust, added Gregoire.
To bridge the trust gap, companies need to look beyond placing labels on packaging and incorporate the claims into their brand DNA, says Gregoire.
“Many manufacturers have undertaken an effort to ‘clean up’ their ingredient decks, incorporating more ‘natural’ or fewer ingredients,” he says.
“It’s important for companies to dedicate the appropriate resources to crafting narrative that resonates, educates and clarifies in an environment where consumers are inundated with contrary messaging on what’s good for them.”
Gregoire cites McCain Foods’ “It’s All Good” platform as a good example of this strategy, as well as President Choice’s “Free From” beef, chicken and pork products, which are raised without the use of antibiotics and hormones.
Which “free-from” claims are the most important to consumers? According to the survey, the top claims are trans-fat free (54%), fat-free (48%) and preservative-free (46%).
Nearly 60% of free-from consumers agree free-from products are healthier to eat and drink. Another 52% agree these products help them address specific health issues. However, only 22% report free-from claims are an important purchasing factor. Aside from price, ingredients (75%) and freshness (73%) matter the most.
The survey also found parents are more likely to have favourable views of free-from foods than non-parents. Two-thirds (66%) of parents feel better serving free-from products to their children, while another half agree it’s worth paying more for free-from products versus 36% of non-parents.
Overall, 58% of parents say they are more likely to buy products with free-from labels compared to 45% of non-parents, and 64% agree free-from products are healthier to consume versus 57% of non-parents.