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Consumers say freshness more important than cost

The food and beverage industry believes U.S. consumers are more price-sensitive than they actually are.
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Food and beverage industry leaders wrongly believe price is the most important concern for U.S. consumers according to results of a new telephone study sponsored by DuPont Packaging & Industrial Polymers of 75 executives in the food and beverage industry conducted in late September 2005.

The survey follows and complements a 10-question consumer freshness survey sponsored by DuPont and conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs conducted from August 31 to September 5 2005. That survey sampled 1 adults nationwide with a margin of error estimated to be ± 2.9 percent.

Consumer study key findings

1. When making food purchasing decisions taste and freshness rank as top concerns among U.S. consumers:

• 60% of U.S. consumers ranked taste or freshness as the most important factor when buying food at the grocery store.

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2. When thinking specifically about packaging freshness ranks as the top concern for U.S. consumers:

• 34% of U.S. consumers ranked freshness as the most important factor when it comes to food packaging. Freshness ranked higher than price (25%) expiration date (24%) and tamper-resistance (9%).

3. U.S. consumers have varying definitions of freshness:

• 36% think it means appearance/taste/aroma

• 34% equate it with the expiration date

• The remaining one-third of respondents are split among safety airtight/leak-proof lack of preservatives reclosability and convenience.

4. A majority of U.S. consumers are willing to pay more for packaging that ensures freshness:

• 72% are willing to pay more -- at least $.10 on a $3 food item -- for improved packaging that ensures freshness.

• 35% would pay at least $.25 on a $3 food item for improved packaging that ensures freshness.

5. U.S. consumers throw away spoiled food regularly:

• Nearly half (47%) discard spoiled food at least every two weeks. 70% throw away spoiled food at least once a month.

6. Fresh vegetables salad bags fresh fruits milk yogurt and cheese are in the top four foods that are typically thrown away.

7. U.S. consumers strongly depend on appearance of food to determine spoilage:

• 90% use the appearance of food to determine if food is spoiled and needs to be thrown away.

8. Inferior packaging impacts brand loyalty:

• 31% have thrown away food because of inferior packaging.

Of those consumers 58% said it impacted their decision to buy the product again. Of those consumers that have not discarded food because of inferior packaging 77% said that type of experience would impact their decision to buy the product again.

Industry disconnect to reality

“Our research indicates a clear disconnect between what the industry thinks is important to consumers and reality” said Dr. Donna L. Visioli senior technical programs manager of DuPont Packaging & Industrial Polymers. “Findings from both our U.S. consumer and industry leader surveys offer a first step for food and beverage industry leaders to open up a dialogue with their consumers in order to gain further insight into consumer preferences and trends. Armed with this data food and beverage companies can work in conjunction with their suppliers to create packaging that meets consumer needs and creates strong loyalty among their customer base.”

Industry invests in technology for 2006

When asked about their plans for 2006 nearly 50% of companies interviewed said that they are planning to invest in new packaging technology in the new year. Nearly 78% of those said the technology would be used to improve and/or maintain product freshness.

“With the industry’s global distribution issues food packaging will play an ever-increasing role in not only guarding against natural pathogens and spoilage but also providing a first line of defense against tampering" Visioli says. "Over the next few years we will begin to see the next generation of resins that are literally “smart”—able to adjust themselves to achieve optimum permeability at varying times in the product cycle. They can also indicate when the safety of the product has been breached.”

Complete results of the study are available at DuPont's Science of Fresh site by clicking here.

--Rick Lingle Technical and RFID editor

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