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A new survey on US consumers’ choices in human foods could have implications for the petfood industry, particularly in how these consumers are focusing on “healthfulness,” the sources they trust for nutrition information, their level of confidence in food safety and the information they seek on product labels. Some of the findings are good news, some not so great.
The International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation’s 2014 Food and Health Survey, fielded in March and April, included 1,005 Americans aged 18 to 80. It found that 71% of the respondents cited healthfulness as a driver in their food and beverage choices, up from 61% in 2013. Further, healthfulness has almost caught up to a price (at 73%) as a factor in food choices. Taste, though, trumps all, cited by 90% of respondents. IFIC has conducted the survey annually since 2006.
A quibble: “Healthfulness” is one of those terms that, on the surface, seems perfectly understandable but in reality could be interpreted in multiple ways. Neither the IFIC report on the survey nor the executive summary defines the term. Nor was it really defined for survey respondents; judging by the summary, it appears to simply have been one of the answer choices to this question: “How much of an impact do the following have on your decision to buy foods and beverages?” Besides taste and price, other choices were convenience (which received a 51% response) and sustainability (38%).
I’ll assume that respondents made a very literal interpretation – full of health – and that this survey finding means US consumers are increasingly making the connection between nutrition and health. By extension, since pet-owning consumers treat their pets as family members, they are likely making the same connection between petfoods and pet health.
According to IFIC, consumers aged 18-34 recorded the biggest leap in focusing on healthfulness from 2013 to 2014, 55% to 66%. Men overall also showed a significant increase, from 56% in 2013 to 65% this year. The other notable subgroup in the survey were respondents who are not college graduates, with 67% reporting healthfulness as a purchasing decision driver, up from 61% in 2013.
Other survey findings of note to petfood: