When you hear the word “natural,” what thoughts or images come to mind? If you think of flowers, puppies, fresh baked bread, or other wholesome ideas, you’re not alone, writes Jack Bobo on the Genetic Literacy Project.
Do you look for the word “natural” on the food products you buy? A lot of us do nowadays. Consumer demand is pushing retailers to stock more “natural” products on their store shelves, with sales growth outpacing the total food and beverage retail market.
Products that were once only found in “health food stores” or specialty stores like Sprouts Farmers Market, Whole Foods, or Natural Grocers are now available in traditional grocery and convenience stores.
The natural label sells
The International Food Information Council (IFIC) surveys consumers every year on a variety of topics including how different labels influence their purchasing behavior. According to the 2019 Food & Health Survey, more than 1/3 of consumers were swayed by a natural product label when shopping for food, more than those influenced by an organic or even a non-GMO label.
Words are powerful influencers of behavior. Not only are consumers vastly more likely to purchase a product with the natural label, but they also ascribe a wide range of characteristics to a product bearing such a label. IFIC asked consumers which was healthier, a product with the “all natural” label or the same product without the label.
An astounding 70% of consumers surveyed perceived that “natural” products were somewhat or highly likely to be healthier.
It’s easy to understand why consumers might think that all-natural products are healthier. Every day we see news stories about pesticides in our food and contamination of our water.
We’re surrounded by chemicals and highly processed foods that contain many artificial and synthetic ingredients. We worry about the health and safety of our children and we want to do something about it. Eliminating artificial ingredients and synthetic preservatives and colorants seems like a good way to start to some people.