The Peception of "Naturalness" - Dr Peter Williams


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A presentation delivered by Dr Peter Williams at the FoodLegal Natural and Superfoods Symposium, August 10 2009.

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The Peception of "Naturalness" - Dr Peter Williams

  1. 1. How is “naturalness” in food perceived by consumers, used by manufacturers, and regulated by food authorities? A descriptive pilot study. Veronique Chachay, Julijana Markoska, Peter Williams, Anne McMahon, Sara Grafenauer Funding: Smart Foods Centre
  2. 2. Background <ul><li>&quot;Natural&quot; is a term often used on labels </li></ul><ul><li>Labelling of foods as &quot;natural&quot; is not regulated by enforceable legislation or regulations in Australia </li></ul><ul><li>Misleading and deceptive conduct prohibition (Trade Practices Act) only consumer protection </li></ul><ul><li>Consumers are powerfully influenced by the marketing of foods as &quot;natural&quot; and by related natural claims </li></ul><ul><li>Consumers expect a level of quality of foods labelled as natural </li></ul>
  3. 3. Background: “natural” definition <ul><li>Definitions of &quot;natural&quot; exists in guidelines: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (2006) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Food Standards Australia & NZ (2002) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Australian Food & Grocery Council (1995) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The definitions require that a ‘natural’ food or ingredient should not: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>contain any additives; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>have any constituent or fraction thereof removed; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>be significantly altered from its original physical, chemical or biological state. </li></ul></ul>
  4. 4. Aims <ul><li>Review the definitions and regulations of the term &quot;natural&quot; in Australia and overseas </li></ul><ul><li>Examine the use of &quot;natural&quot; on product labels, and the ingredients used in these products </li></ul><ul><li>Explore consumer perceptions & expectations of &quot;natural&quot; foods and ingredients </li></ul>Ethics approval was granted by the UOW Human Research Ethics Committee
  5. 5. Methods: regulations <ul><li>Internet search </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Legislation – government websites </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Government food authority websites </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Literature search </li></ul><ul><ul><li>UOW database subscriptions </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Limits </li></ul><ul><ul><li>English language </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Full text </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Data analysis </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Tabulation </li></ul></ul>
  6. 6. Methods: regulations Table 1: Search strategy for regulations of the term ‘natural’ Databases Searched Websites Searched Search Terms <ul><li>Annual Reviews   </li></ul><ul><li>APAFT </li></ul><ul><li>BioMed Central </li></ul><ul><li>PubMed   </li></ul><ul><li>Cambridge Journals Online </li></ul><ul><li>Cinhal </li></ul><ul><li>Cochrane – all </li></ul><ul><li>Expanded Academic ASAP </li></ul><ul><li>Health Reference Centre Academic </li></ul><ul><li>Health Sciences: A SAGE Full-Text Collection </li></ul><ul><li>FSANZ </li></ul><ul><li>NSW Food Authority </li></ul><ul><li>Codex </li></ul><ul><li>Health Canada </li></ul><ul><li>Canadian Food Inspection Agency </li></ul><ul><li>Bureau of Food Safety and Consumer Protection </li></ul><ul><li>European Food Safety Authority </li></ul><ul><li>United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) </li></ul><ul><li>USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service </li></ul><ul><li>Food Standards Agency UK </li></ul><ul><li>natural </li></ul><ul><li>label </li></ul><ul><li>food </li></ul><ul><li>standard </li></ul><ul><li>legislation </li></ul><ul><li>regulation </li></ul><ul><li>guide </li></ul><ul><li>health </li></ul><ul><li>claim </li></ul><ul><li>definition </li></ul><ul><li>representation </li></ul><ul><li>agency </li></ul><ul><li>UK </li></ul><ul><li>USA </li></ul>
  7. 7. Methods: product survey <ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Initial food group scan in supermarket </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul>Food groups with “natural” Food groups without “natural” Dairy, soy product, ice cream Meats, seafood, eggs Baby foods Frozen products except ice cream Soft drinks, mineral water, juice Sauces, dressings, oils, herbs, spices Jams and confectionary Flour, sugar Breads and crackers Rice, instant soup, noodles & pasta Cereals, muesli, fruit & breakfast bars, other grain products Potato crisps, biscuits Dried fruit and nuts Honey, tinned fruit, fruit juice Health food products Fresh fruit & vegetables
  8. 8. Methods: product survey <ul><li>2. Convenience sampling of local food outlets </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>General supermarkets (n=9) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Health food stores (n=3) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>3. Surveying of all food products with front of pack &quot;natural&quot; claims (n=353) </li></ul><ul><li>4. Data analysis: frequency tabulations of ingredients use, natural claims & associated claims </li></ul>
  9. 9. Methods: questionnaire <ul><li>Questions developed from results of food product survey </li></ul><ul><li>25 common ingredients representative of extracts, concentrates, additives, colours and flavours listed </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Response options: Yes, No, Not Sure </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Open ended question on perceptions of &quot;natural&quot; food ingredients </li></ul><ul><li>Question on how often ingredients list on food label is read </li></ul><ul><ul><li>5 point Likert scale ranging from ‘never’ to ‘always’ </li></ul></ul>
  10. 10. Methods: questionnaire <ul><li>Convenience sampling method with 119 participants sourced from </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Weight Loss Clinic client base (n=27) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Credit Union staff (n=40) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Staff from a call centre workplace (n=47) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>University of Wollongong general staff (n=5) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Data analysis </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Quantitative data: SPSS (v. 14) descriptive analysis and Chi-Square tests </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Qualitative data: manual thematic analysis </li></ul></ul>
  11. 11. Methods: focus group <ul><li>1 hour focus group (n=5) </li></ul><ul><li>Participants source: UOW general staff (by email) </li></ul><ul><li>$15 Meyer voucher handed out to each participant </li></ul><ul><li>Open ended questions developed from literature review and with supervisor advice were discussed </li></ul><ul><li>Food products with “natural” claims were shown to the group and discussed </li></ul><ul><li>The conversation was recorded on digital equipment and transcribed for analysis </li></ul><ul><li>Data analysis: preliminary manual thematic analysis </li></ul>
  12. 12. Methods: focus group questions <ul><li>What do you think of when you hear the word “natural”? </li></ul><ul><li>Thinking about food, what foods do you think are natural foods? </li></ul><ul><li>What sort of things would you expect in a food that was labelled “natural”? </li></ul><ul><li>What sort of foods do you think should not be called “natural”? </li></ul><ul><li>What rules, if any, do you think manufacturers or food suppliers should have to follow when they use the term “natural”? </li></ul>
  13. 13. Results: regulations Regulations & definitions of &quot;natural&quot; in Australia and overseas Country/ Region Natural definition - guideline Natural definition – legally enforceable Misleading & deceptive representation regulation Australia/NZ Yes No Yes Canada Yes No Yes UK Yes No Yes USA No Yes – specific products only Yes European Union Yes – partial No Yes Codex No No No
  14. 14. Results: definitions <ul><li>Common requirements of all definitions are that “natural&quot; foods or ingredients should: </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>not contain any additives </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>not be significantly altered from original state </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>be minimally processed </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Canada & UK: ‘natural’ vs ‘natural ingredients’ </li></ul><ul><li>Manufacturers should not rely on technical definitions & should have regard to what consumers would think (FSANZ 2002, ACCC 2006) </li></ul>
  15. 15. Results: product survey (n=353) Figure 1: Uses of the term &quot;natural&quot; on foods products Legend Natural ingredients Natural style Natural source (nutrients/goodness) Natural flavours/colours Brand and product names Miscellaneous
  16. 16. Results: product survey <ul><li>2 . Associated claims </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Related to type of product rather than “natural” claim </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>No identifiable trend linked to &quot;natural&quot; claims </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>3. Ingredients used </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Wide variety (n=686) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Some clearly inconsistent with definitions: eg. gluten </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Common ingredients found in &quot;natural&quot; products include: </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>canola oil </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>sugar </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>preservative 220 (sulphur dioxide) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>citric acid </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>added vitamins </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>emulsifiers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>yeast </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>wheat starch </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>fruit purees </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>juice concentrates </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>milk solids </li></ul></ul>
  17. 17. Percentage of participants who indicated that the listed ingredients would be suitable for inclusion in a product labeled ‘natural’ Results: questionnaire Ingredients Frequency (%) Yes No Not Sure whole meal flour vitamin C pear puree yeast canola oil sugar natural flavour apple juice concentrate glucose syrup gluten malt extract guarana extract whey powder wheat starch gelatine soy lecithin food acid citric non-fat milk solids vegetable gum honey powder maltodextrin hydrolysed vegetable protein inulin colour caramel colour 129 (allura red) 80 73 67 63 62 58 45 44 41 39 37 34 31 29 28 28 26 25 18 16 15 11 10 8 2 11 12 16 22 22 31 30 36 42 34 35 33 33 35 23 46 42 38 35 51 30 48 20 72 76 7 13 15 15 16 10 23 16 15 26 26 31 35 30 47 24 29 35 45 30 53 40 68 20 22
  18. 18. Results: questionnaire <ul><li>Colours, flavours, additives, preservatives and anything that &quot; is not found in nature and has to be manufactured &quot; or &quot;synthesised in a laboratory&quot; were regarded by consumers as unsuitable for inclusion in foods labelled as &quot;natural&quot;. </li></ul><ul><li>Key themes </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Level & type of food processing </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Quantity of ingredient important, eg sugar generally considered a ‘natural’ ingredient, but not if added to food in high quantities </li></ul></ul></ul>
  19. 19. Results: focus group <ul><li>“ The consumer takes it for face value that ‘natural’ makes a product superior [to other products in quality]” </li></ul><ul><li>“ The lack of understanding of additives makes one doubt about the effect they have, and makes it impossible to make a decision about a product. Numbers make me think that a product is not natural” </li></ul><ul><li>“ With foods that are foods we have had in the diet for a long period of time, eg. bread, we feel comfortable with the label natural. New products are not as well trusted” </li></ul>
  20. 20. Results: focus group <ul><li>“ Natural’ makes me pick it up, then I read the list of ingredients and often change my mind” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I get suspicious of the term natural actually- it’s more like an advertisement slogan, they say its natural but they can say its natural even if it only has a few natural ingredients” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I do hope that “natural” means that it is a better product !” </li></ul>
  21. 21. Results: focus group themes <ul><li>Natural and healthy were often seen as similar </li></ul><ul><li>There was caution about the use of the word natural in consumers because of a lack of trust in food manufacturers </li></ul><ul><li>Food fortification was generally not perceived as natural </li></ul><ul><li>The lack of knowledge and familiarity with food ingredients, their processing methods and reported effect, made consumers dubious </li></ul>
  22. 22. Discussion <ul><li>“ Natural&quot; wasn’t frequently used on products that were clearly natural: vegetable and fruit, fresh meat, eggs... </li></ul><ul><li>The use of the term “natural” is an effective marketing tool and often attracts the consumer’s interest </li></ul><ul><li>Consumers thought that regulation and monitoring of “natural” should be applied, and were surprised to hear that nothing was already in place </li></ul><ul><li>Consumers were extremely confused about ingredients, especially when code numbers were used </li></ul><ul><li>Brand & product name use of &quot;natural&quot; is potentially misleading </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Not covered by AU/NZ guideline </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Compare UK Food Agency Food Labelling Regulations 1996: guidance notes </li></ul></ul></ul>
  23. 23. Limitations <ul><li>Convenience sampling methods for participants and food outlets (not representative) </li></ul><ul><li>Small sample sizes: </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>We cannot report the prevalence of natural claim use </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Only 1 focus group was run. The aim is to run another 3 to 4 groups </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Questionnaire response rate: 24% </li></ul></ul></ul>
  24. 24. Conclusions <ul><li>“ Natural” is extremely appealing and meaningful to consumers </li></ul><ul><li>Consumers expect that ‘natural’ is representative of a standard of quality, however they are unclear about what qualifies as ‘natural’ </li></ul><ul><li>Current definition of ‘natural’ is unclear & unenforceable </li></ul><ul><li>Clearer definitions & guidance on use of ‘natural’ (as in UK) would be useful for consumer protection & industry guidance </li></ul><ul><li>Cr eating clear guidelines will be difficult given the lack of consumer consensus on the meaning of ‘natural’, particularly regarding the level of processing of ingredients </li></ul>
  25. 25. Contact <ul><li>A/Prof Peter Williams </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Smart Foods Centre, University of Wollongong </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Email: [email_address] </li></ul></ul>