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Use Your Words

As consumers demand more transparency, food nutrition labels are getting more crowded with terms like “non-GMO,” “antibiotic-free,” “fair trade” and dozens of others. Now there’s more evidence that “natural” and “all-natural” are two terms that may be more useful as marketing tools than as nutritional disclosures.

A recent story in USA Today cites Consumer Reports’ research showing “at least 60 percent of people believe a natural label means packaged and processed foods have no genetically modified organisms, no artificial ingredients or colors, no chemicals and no pesticides. And 45 percent think that natural is a verified claim. It’s not.”

“Green noise” is how Urvashi Rangan, director of food safety for Consumer Reports, sums up the fog of words emanating from the quest for transparency. David Just, a professor of behavioral economics at Cornell University, recommends cutting through the noise with the right words instead of picking up on every new term that emerges.

Grocery experts recommend grocerants use terms that fall in line with an entire banner’s sourcing priorities. Rick Stein, vice president of fresh foods for the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), has noted that demand for food transparency will continue to grow, and whether your store has committed to cage-free eggs or antibiotic-free chicken, you need to make sure the concepts are conveyed through your prepared food program.

FMI’s Top Trends in Fresh report, citing IRI FreshLook point-of-sale data collected during the 52 weeks ending November 2015, finds “organic” currently leads in the number of claims, while seafood sustainability, “fair wage/food,” GMOs and animal welfare are likely to grow as consumer priorities. Consumer demands driving this growth include the need for more positive emotional connections with food choices, greater interest in health and wellness, and a desire for authenticity and real ingredients.

Grocerant-Ready Ideas:

  • Specific sourcing terms that tune out “green noise”
  • Consumer priorities pinpointed by using store sales trends
  • Local farmers and suppliers featured in prepared food specials
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