Cargill study shows consumers closely monitor oils and fats in packaged food

The majority of consumers closely monitor the type and amount of fat and oil in packaged food according to the results of a study by global agribusiness giant Cargill, which were announced on 27 May.

In the FATitudes study, 68% of consumers said they tracked what went into their bodies by closely reading the labels of packaged foods, with fat and oil type classed as important factors.

Cargill conducts the study annually to learn more about consumer awareness, perceptions and behaviours around fats and oils in packaged foods and to help inform future food innovation.

In this year’s study, approximately 6,600 primary household grocery shoppers were surveyed in 12 countries including Brazil, China, Germany, the United Kingdom and the USA.

“As consumers’ attitudes toward fats and oils have shifted in recent years, we know they’re interested in consuming healthy amounts of oils,” said Nese Tagma, managing director of strategy and innovation for Cargill’s global edible oils business.

“This research is vital to guide our thinking on whether to revitalise tried-and-true products or develop a new frying oil to adapt to changing tastes and health options.”

In the study, nearly 61% of US consumers reported avoiding certain fats or oils with 83% of ‘clean-label seekers’ avoiding specific fats or oils, like saturated and trans fats.

Olive oil topped the list in every country for impact on purchase and perceptions of healthiness in packaged foods, followed by fish and avocado oils.

A vast majority of global consumers, 93%, were aware of the importance of omega-3s.

How often consumers read labels differed by region. Chinese consumers paid the most attention (89%) and German consumers monitored the least (48%).

The study showed that consumers were influenced by claims on packaged food with most people checking labels for fat-related claims on packaged foods and 54% saying such a claim made them more likely to make a purchase.

Allison Webster, director of research and nutrition communications for International Food Information Council (IFIC), said Cargill’s FATitudes study highlighted important differences between countries.

“IFIC’s US-based consumer research consistently shows that while nutrition information, expiration date and ingredients lists are most often consulted when deciding what to eat, labels and health claims are also highly influential on food purchasing decisions.

“Cargill’s FATitudes survey looks at similar perceptions and behaviours specifically related to fats and oils, this time from an international vantage point.”