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Consumers Rank Ingredient Transparency Among Most Important Issues for Brands

Horsemeat found in five percent of beef tested in the European Union. One in three fish commonly mislabeled in the United States. Up to 30 states now considering GMO labeling laws. Ingredient transparency is trending for brands looking to restore consumer trust. But how much do consumers care about what they put in, on and around their bodies?

A recent study by BBMG, GlobeScan and SustainAbility finds that nearly 9 in 10 consumers globally (86%) say "ingredient transparency is extremely important or very important” for companies to address as part of their products, services or operations — 88% of consumers in emerging markets and 84% of consumers in developed markets. However, only 57% regularly “check the list of ingredients before purchasing” products, highlighting the gap between interest and action in sustainable consumption.

According to the report — Re:Thinking Consumption: Consumers and the Future of Sustainability (view a recent webinar on some of the report's other key findings) — ingredient transparency is also a “very important” or “important” factor in purchase decisions across key categories, such as food and beverage (82%), beauty and personal care (82%), and household products (82%). The study draws from an online survey of 6,224 consumers across Brazil, China, India, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States.

“Many consumers globally believe they have the right to know what products are made of and they want companies to ensure their products are safe and effective,” said Eric Whan, Sustainability Director at GlobeScan. “However, there’s a gap between interest and action when it comes to actually reading the list of ingredients on product packaging.”

"The overwhelming majority of consumers identifies ingredient transparency as an important consideration in making purchase decisions for food, beauty and household products,” said Raphael Bemporad, co-founder of brand innovation consultancy BBMG. “Across multiple markets and product categories, consumers are expressing interest in what goes in, on and around their bodies.”

Key Findings:

Food and Beverage:

  • Ingredient Transparency: 82% of consumers surveyed (86% in emerging markets and 78% in developed markets) say that “ingredient transparency is a very important or important factor” when shopping for food and beverage products.
  • Non-GMOs: Additionally, nearly two-thirds (64% — 78% in emerging markets and 52% in developed markets) seek food and beverage products “made with no genetically modified organisms” while making purchase decisions.
  • Natural Ingredients: Eighty percent of consumers polled from six different countries consider it "very important or important" that their food and beverage purchases are "made with natural ingredients."

Beauty and Personal Care:

  • Ingredient Transparency: More than 8 in 10 consumers globally (82% — ) say that ingredient transparency is a “very important or important” factor when shopping for beauty and personal care products.
  • No Harsh Chemicals or Toxins: Additionally, 87% of consumers (91% in emerging, 82% in developed) say “uses no harsh chemicals or toxins” drives their product purchases in the beauty and personal care category.

Household Products:

  • Ingredient Transparency: A total of 82% (87% emerging, 77% developed) of consumers seek “ingredient transparency” when purchasing household goods.
  • No Harsh Chemicals or Toxins: The overwhelming majority (85% — 89% emerging, 81% developed) of consumers globally consider “made with no harsh chemicals or toxins” to be a very important or important qualification when purchasing household care products.

Box Turners:

  • Checking the List of Ingredients: Nearly 6 in 10 consumers (57% — 65% emerging, 49% developed) say they “checked the list of ingredients before purchasing” products either all of the time or most of the time during the last year.
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