Consumers indifferent to food brands: study

06 May 2010

NEW YORK: A majority of consumers are indifferent about which food brands they buy in grocery stores, new research covering five markets has revealed.

Ketchum, the marketing agency, polled 1,000 people in Argentina, China, Germany, the UK and US in order to establish which factors shaped their food purchases.

Across all of the countries assessed, just one third of contributors said they considered the "brand name" when buying products in this category.

More specifically, this figure stood at 45% in both Argentina and China, 35% in the US and 24% in the UK, but reached a nadir of only 16% in Germany.

In contrast, price was one of the main concerns for 81% of Germans, 79% of Americans, 76% of Britons, 58% of Chinese and 56% of Argentines, according to Ketchum's report.

Quality was afforded a greater influence in Argentina, where 79% of the sample agreed it played a key role, a perception that dropped to a low of 67% in China.

Some 74% of the panel said taste was one area which impacted their preferences, including at least 80% of the cohorts in Germany, the UK and US, but slipping to 69% in China and 57% in Argentina.

Food safety was of primary importance to 86% of Chinese respondents, perhaps unsurprisingly given high-profile scares linked to the sale of tainted baby milk in the country, and meaning the country was ahead of the average of 64%.

Health benefits were also a matter of interest for 78% of Chinese consumers and 55% of Americans, with the UK and Argentina on 49% and 48% in turn, and Germany on 34%.

Over two-thirds of all participants believed customers should have a greater involvement in the number of artificial ingredients used in food products, climbing to a peak of 74% in the UK.

A plurality also wanted to have more of an input in when it came to food safety and the sourcing of ingredients, in order to ensure the items they bought were of a suitable standard.

"Food companies often ask consumers about food preparation and convenience, but the areas where consumers want more control are the ones where food companies are least likely to seek consumer input," said Linda Eatherton, partner director of Ketchum's global food and nutrition practice.

Looking forward, 43% of those surveyed expected the food they consumed to change substantially by 2020, while 39% predicted the way they shopped for food would be different by this date.

Data sourced from Marketing Charts; additional content by Warc staff