GNT consumer survey: “Naturalness is key”

Naturalness is key when it comes to nutritional choices is one of the key findings from a report published by GNT Group on consumer eating preferences. Consumers all around the world are attaching increasing importance to products with healthy and natural ingredients, while additives like colourants have been regarded more and more critically for some […]

GNT consumer survey: “Naturalness is key”

natural-ingredients-stamp-isolated-white-background-46842848Naturalness is key when it comes to nutritional choices is one of the key findings from a report published by GNT Group on consumer eating preferences. Consumers all around the world are attaching increasing importance to products with healthy and natural ingredients, while additives like colourants have been regarded more and more critically for some years now, says GNT. Contemporary recipes are in demand, so as to secure consumers’ favour in the future as well. But in order to develop these, food and beverage producers have to know the consumers’ requirements in detail, the company claims. In what product categories is natural goodness particularly important? Are there any regional differences? What additives are on top of the black list? Only companies that know the answers to these questions will be able to conquer the coveted eye-level space on the supermarket shelves with their products, GNT believes.

In order to map out the actual extent of the trend towards more naturalness, the GNT Group commissioned the market research institute TNS to conduct a unique global consumer study. The results provide detailed insights into consumers’ eating and shopping habits as well as their attitudes towards packaged and processed foods: it shines a light, for example, on what they understand by natural products, how they evaluate particular ingredients, and how important labels and claims are.

For the study, a two-step process was chosen to obtain the kind of information producers need. In a first, qualitative phase, the attitudes of 175 consumers from seven different countries (Brazil, China, Germany, Indonesia, Poland, the UK, and the USA) were explored by means of an online platform. The participants discussed their diet in general and specific food and beverages in particular. The thoughts, views and opinions of the interviewees provided an in-depth understanding of consumers’ attitudes towards food and beverages, and were also used to develop the questionnaire for the second, quantitative phase.

In December 2014, 5,000 consumers aged between 18 and 70 from Brazil, China, France, Germany, Indonesia, Poland, Spain, Thailand, the UK and the USA took part in a representative online survey. Their responses document the wishes and expectations of consumers, their attitudes to specific product characteristics, and the latter’s influence on purchasing decisions and the attitude towards pricing.

As part of the study, four product categories have received special attention: soft drinks, sweets, yoghurt and ice-cream. Thanks to this specific focus and the study’s two-step process, the GNT Group can now provide its clients with unique insights into the demands of global consumers.

Other countries, other priorities – five consumer types and their global prevalence

Initial valuable information on consumers’ needs can be obtained by examining their general eating habits. The study’s results prove: healthy foods and beverages are a paramount concern of consumers all around the world. Two-thirds of all respondents (67 percent) pay particular attention to a balanced diet in everyday life. 60 percent of the consumers state that, if they buy processed and packaged food, it should contain only healthy ingredients. However, almost half of the interviewees prefer meals that are fast and easy to prepare (45 percent), or note that they often don’t have the time to prepare fresh meals (44 percent).

In the course of the study, a total of five different consumer types has been identified, which are distributed differently around the globe, and which have different priorities with regard to their diet – from fast-food fans through to those who meticulously check all their foods and drinks.

Concerned consumers without any time – an Asian phenomenon

The first of the five consumer types, the Busy Health Seeker, accounts for 36 percent of all consumers and thus constitutes the largest group worldwide. It is characterised by a particularly keen interest in healthy foods, which, however, has to be reconciled with a hectic lifestyle involving numerous obligations. Most of the Busy Health Seekers don’t have the time or the requisite information to engage in detail with foods and their ingredients. They are usually aged between 25 and 44, and have children under 12. This consumer type is very widely represented in Asia, as it accounts for the majority of the population in China (66 percent), Indonesia (63 percent) and Thailand (70 percent). In Europe, the Busy Health Seeker is a significantly rarer phenomenon (20 percent).

Where food has to be convenient

The second-largest consumer group are the so-called Convenience Seekers. From a global perspective, they make up for 22 percent of all consumers. For them, it’s particularly important that food can be prepared quickly and conveniently. For this, they are also willing to go without a healthy and balanced diet. The predominantly male (59 percent) Convenience Seekers are mostly young singles aged between 18 and 34. In the United Kingdom, this type of consumer constitutes the largest (39 percent) share of all consumers. In the qualitative study, British participants stated that due to lack of time they quite often have recourse to the vast amount of ready-to-cook meals and fast food options available. In the USA (29 percent of the respondents), France (29 percent) and Germany (28 percent) convenience in the kitchen also plays a far-from-negligible role.

Affordability is paramount for many Europeans

For a third group of consumers, the questions arising in connection with foods and beverages include not only the preparation time, but also the pricing. The Budget and Basics Seekers account for 15 percent of the globally interviewed consumers. For them, food and cooking primarily have to be affordable and uncomplicated. Budget and Basics Seekers are typically older than 45, and have children still living at home. Women and men are equally represented in this category. The Budget and Basics Seekers are particularly numerous in France and Germany (24 percent each). In the qualitative survey, in fact, German consumers came across as especially pragmatic: although they do see a connection between natural foods and their own wellbeing, they are often reluctant to invest too much time and money in their own diet. In both Spain and the USA, too, this attitude can be found among 20 percent of the population.

Time and money for your own diet – Europe’s second face

A similarly sized proportion of Europeans and also Americans, however, shows a different behaviour. For about 25 percent of the French and Germans, 19 percent of the Spaniards, and 18 percent of the Brazilians, healthy foods and beverages are right at the top of the agenda. Conscious Health Seekers – 15 percent of the population worldwide – pay special attention to a balanced diet and to natural ingredients in their products. They invest a huge amount of time and money in a healthy lifestyle. In Brazil (as the qualitative survey reveals) this is particularly motivated by a wish to look attractive. Women and the elderly, whose children have already left home, are particularly well represented in the group of Conscious Health Seekers.

When children are the motivation for natural goodness

Last but not least, there are consumers whose role as parents motivates them to opt for a healthy, natural diet. Caring Parents are usually aged between 35 and 44, female, and have children under 12. Out of concern for their offspring and in order to be a good role model, they attach particular importance to healthy, natural foods and beverages. In Indonesia
(17 percent), Spain (16 percent) and Brazil (14 percent), this type of consumer is widespread. Around the globe, it accounts for 12 percent of all consumers.


These results indubitably underline the importance of natural, healthy ingredients for today’s consumers, GNT concludes. The wish for a balanced diet is a significant global trend, although it is manifested differently depending on the region and segment of the population. Certain components, like colouring ingredients, however, have become indispensable to top-quality foods and beverages. Consumers are aware that they are influenced in their purchasing decisions by the colour of the food or beverage concerned. They want appealing products, but without impairing their health due to synthetic additives.

In order to meet consumers’ needs, more and more food and beverage producers use natural ingredients. According to GNT, an ideal alternative to chemically produced colourants are Colouring Foods which are made exclusively from edible fruits, vegetables and plants and are processed using gentle physical methods such as pressing, chopping and filtering – without the use of artificial additives, chemicals or organic solvents.