LENEXA, KAN. – Consumer distrust of large food manufacturers will be challenging for the industry moving forward, a Corbion global survey found.

At Corbion’s 2023 Media Day on Oct. 17, Jennifer Halliburton, senior manager, global insights, bakery, and Megan Passman, global insights manager, highlighted consumers’ evolving perceptions around food following the pandemic. The company surveyed 54 consumers around the globe across all demographics, including age, family dynamic and socioeconomic status.

The survey found a loss of trust in large food manufacturers, especially among North American respondents. Food recalls, a perceived lack of transparency and a distrust of artificial ingredients have all contributed to this sentiment, Corbion found.

“Across the globe, there were sentiments that were pretty common around that loss of trust due to perceived lack of transparency,” Halliburton said. “Consumers tell us when they don’t know what something is, they don’t trust it.”

In North America, clean label products with ingredients consumers can understand are trending and help alleviate this distrust. More consumers are seeking natural products made without artificial ingredients, chemicals or other unknowns, Halliburton said.

European consumers shared a need for quality nutrition that’s affordable, noting that while vegetarian and healthy diets are the ethical choice, they remain cost prohibitive. In Asia, consumers express a desire for “quality food” with “natural ingredients” they can taste, while South American respondents wanted foods that provide pleasure and indulgence, while still being healthy.

“Loss of control” was another sentiment shared by respondents across the globe. Following the pandemic, consumers are concerned about their financial security, including job stability and inflation, as well as their health and wellbeing. Respondents also shared concerns about a lack of time for themselves, and anxiety about the climate and societal unrest.

To help bring back a sense of control, North American consumers want time-saving food solutions that don’t compromise on health and quality, Corbion found. European consumers are seeking value, but not necessarily at a lower price, while consumers in developing nations are most concerned about protecting the health and happiness of their families at all costs.

Across all regions of the globe, Corbion’s survey found consumers additionally share a strong desire to better society and the planet. More consumers, especially younger generations, are seeking brands with a greater commitment to sustainability.  

Passman noted this is an opportunity for food manufacturers to share their story with consumers who want to know what companies are doing to better the planet.

“Make sure your personality comes to life,” she said. “Showcase your core values. Who are you as a company? [Consumers] are interested in learning from you. What stories can help us connect to you as a manufacturer?”

Halliburton noted there is a gap between consumers’ desire for sustainable products and their willingness to pay a premium price for them. But that gap is closing quickly, she said, faster than many food manufacturers may want it to.

“Consumers said it’s OK if you’re not all the way there,” she said. “But at least do something to help us understand you recognize it’s important, and that you’re starting to take steps.”