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CHICAGO — Consumers are taking a more active role in understanding the types of ingredients that make up their food products, and they're urging the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to further define terms such as "natural" and "all natural" on labels, which have vague definitions.
According to new research released by The NPD Group, these terms convey a sense of "wholesomeness, without additives, chemicals and preservatives." Yet, this isn't always the case, as foods rich in high-fructose corn syrup or GMOs, for example, may still be labeled "natural" under the current FDA-issued guidance on labeling that dates back to the 1990s.
The FDA announced in mid-November that it was seeking public comments on the use of the term “natural” in food labeling, due to growing consumer demand for more clarity.
There is emerging evidence that consumers are looking for foods to be in their pure form, NPD found, as more than 30 percent of consumers are cautious about serving foods with preservatives compared to 24 percent 10 years ago. The trend for additives follows the same progression.
Additionally, 39 percent of Americans consume foods or beverages labeled as “all natural” or having “natural ingredients” in an average week. Products with natural, organic or whole grain claims also are more likely to be consumed in an average week than those with a light/low-calorie label, pointing toward a shifting perception of health, the market research company noted.
“Marketers would be wise to initiate a dialogue with consumers to assuage concerns about particular ingredients,” stated Darren Seifer, NPD analyst. “Education about how specific products and ingredients can fit into consumers’ daily lives also will go a long way in clearing up possible confusion about ‘natural’ foods messaging.”