WEIGHT and health management were the main motivations for the majority of U.S. grocery shoppers to check ingredient labels on meat products, according to the new research from Kemin Industries.
The online survey, conducted by Harris Poll, asked 1,004 U.S. adults who claimed to serve as their household's primary grocery shopper about their meat purchasing habits.
The survey found that 40% of respondents said they purchase meat products at national grocery chains, while 31% shopped at big value chain stores like Costco, and 25% frequently selected meat from independently owned stores.
Specialty stores were the least popular, with only 4% shopping for meat there, although those shoppers actually were more likely to read the labels before purchasing meat products (Figure).
When shopping at their favorite grocery store, 81% of meat shoppers typically turn to the refrigerated section and 46% to the deli/meat counter when selecting meat or meat products for their families.
The largest health-related reasons for consulting labels were: diabetes/blood sugar, hypertension/heart disease and cholesterol. However, these health concerns may relate to avoidance of common ingredients such as sugar, sodium or fat.
Sodium, preservatives and nitrites/nitrates were the top three words consumers avoided when buying meat products. Nevertheless, 44% surveyed indicated that they do not avoid anything.
Since preservatives are essential to keep ready-to-eat meat and poultry products safe from foodborne pathogens, the survey asked participants about preferred preservatives.
Not surprisingly, 41% preferred no preservatives, and 33% said they had no preference, but when forced to make a selection, a single-ingredient preservative fared better than multi-ingredient preservative.
In particular, respondents were more likely to buy meat with propionic acid as opposed to sodium lactate or sodium diacetate.
Manufacturers may need to consider how certain preservatives used in processed meats can influence consumer purchasing decisions. In addition, manufacturers may want to select ingredients based on effectiveness, usage levels and consumer preference.
"This research reveals that ingredient labeling and consumer perception are an important factor when it comes to purchase decisions," said Brittany Bailey, product manager for the food technologies division of Kemin.
"We are committed to providing the industry with ingredients backed by science that improve the safety and quality of food, and it is our hope that this study will provide value to manufacturers and industry leaders working to produce safe and nutritious food that meets consumer demands," she added.