food ingredients
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How much do consumers care about food ingredients?

(4 min read)

Ingredients Spotlight Part I

Shoppers want to know more about what goes into their food and drink

For millennia, humans have been using ingredients for a variety of purposes – to enhance functionality, texture, flavour, nutrition, preservation, and appearance of food. But not all ingredients are accepted equally – misconceptions, misinformation, and biases run wild in the food ingredients space, causing consumers to boycott certain ingredients and rave about others. Even the names of ingredients and how they are displayed on packaging or talked about by the media can make a big difference in whether we buy a food product or pass it by. 

Consumers are increasingly interested in knowing more about food ingredients – especially in the plant-based space. A recent survey found that 62% of people are paying more attention to ingredient lists now than they did five years ago.[1] Plus, nearly two-thirds (63%) of adults say the ingredients in a food or beverage have at least a moderate influence on whether they buy it.[2] 

Source: Unsplash/Akil Chandran

In fact, consumer purchasing preferences are changing in terms of what people want from ingredients – ‘clean’ is in, ‘chemical-sounding’ is out,[3] and health is more important than ever. The words ‘natural’ and ‘artificial’ elicit strong and differing reactions when it comes to food choices. 

Transparency and nutrition are important for modern consumers who are interested in knowing ingredient information to make informed purchasing decisions. As a result, the food industry must adapt.

Research shows that some consumers believe that certain plant-based ingredients are:

  • highly processed, and as a result, are not as ‘clean’ or ‘natural’ as those used in meat and dairy products
  • bad for health
  • poor tasting
  • damaging to the environment

Where do consumers look for ingredient information?

Typically, shoppers look to the product itself when searching for information about what ingredients it contains: 62% consult the ingredients list, and 52% look at front-of-package information.[4] This demonstrates the great importance of food-product labels and packaging – both will affect how consumers respond to ingredients, so they must describe ingredients in ways that are most favourable to consumers. Consumers also approach websites or social media accounts of brands/companies (20%), family or friends (16%), and QR codes on packages (8%) to learn about a product’s ingredients.[5] 

Source: Unsplash/Imants Kaziluns

Word-of-mouth is an impactful source of information about specific ingredients; 20% of people go to family and friends to learn more about ingredients. Shoppers also consult websites or social-media accounts of brands/companies (19%), the top articles shown after an online search (18%), their personal healthcare provider (16%), and websites or the social-media accounts of government agencies (15%). Additionally, 4% of people cite food/nutrition social-media influencers or bloggers as their top source of food-ingredient information.[6] 

How are food manufacturers and brands reacting?

As a result of consumer aversion to ‘undesirable’ or unfamiliar ingredients, food manufacturers are moving away from certain ingredients, for example, palm oil and methylcellulose. However, obtaining the same functionality and taste can require the addition of multiple new ingredients, giving rise to ‘clean label’ and ingredient-list-length considerations for many producers. So, if you haven’t already, it may be time to take a fresh look at your ingredients and how you communicate about them to consumers. 

Source: Unsplash/Arno Senoner

Throughout this article, we have learned that: 

  • Consumer-purchasing decisions are changing – ‘clean’ ingredients are typically preferred over ‘chemical-sounding’ ones. 
  • Consumers are becoming more concerned about food ingredients, including what they are, how they are made/obtained, and where they come from.
  • In general, shoppers look to the product itself when searching for information about its ingredients. They also consult people they know, websites, social-media accounts, and authoritative bodies for food-ingredient information.
  • Consumers are picking up aversions to certain ingredients, depending on what they find out about them or how the information is presented to them.

Read the second instalment in this series next week to find out more.


1, 2  IFIC Survey: From “Chemical-sounding” to “Clean”: Consumer Perspectives on Food Ingredients, (2021).Food Insight. Available at: Accessed 2023-02-02.
3 Consumers Show Strong Interest in Knowing About Food Ingredients: “Clean” Is in, “Chemical-Sounding” Is Out, (2021). International Food Information Council. Available at: Accessed 2023-02-02.
4, 5, 6 IFIC Survey: From “Chemical-sounding” to “Clean”: Consumer Perspectives on Food Ingredients, (2021).Food Insight. Available at: Accessed 2023-02-02.

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