Why transparency and authenticity are as important as taste

14 September 2021, 07:42 AM
  • As demand for ethical and traceable ingredients grows, food and drink businesses must think beyond flavour, says Kamil Sawicki, VP global head of cocoa powder at OFI

Taste is no longer the sole factor driving people’s purchasing decisions. Today’s consumers don’t just want a product that tastes good, but one that makes them feel good too, both in terms of their own health, and the health of the planet

Health claims have been a long-term trend in the confectionery market, but now consumers are even more focused on making sure their diets support health and wellbeing. This is boosting other long-term trends, like the shift to more plant-based diets and cleaner labels. Last year, we saw more consumers seek out plant-based food during lockdown as they became more health-conscious while consumers continued to scrutinise ingredients lists with a fine-toothed comb, favouring ingredients they know and recognise over anything they can’t find in their own kitchen cupboard.

Ethical credentials are growing in importance too as consumers become increasingly aware of the impact of their food on nature, climate and communities, and the role their purchasing decisions play in shaping the global food system. In an increasingly connected world, products that can tell an authentic and positive story about where they come from, the people who grew them, and the positive impact created in the supply chain will have the upper hand.

As a result, discerning consumers are leaning towards simpler snacks that use just a few ingredients selected for quality, health benefits and positive impact. Each individual ingredient must earn its place by having a holistic story to tell on all counts.

How to meet customers’ evolving expectations

Start at the beginning. Consumers no longer just care about which ingredients are on the label, they also want to understand the provenance and impact of those that have made the list. This is a trend that has become stronger in the past year; a 2020 survey from research agency Kantar found one third of adults say they are more concerned about sustainability now than they were before the pandemic.

Products that offer full traceability and transparency of where and how they were sourced can help reassure consumers of their sustainable credentials. That’s why we recently achieved 100% traceability in our directly sourced cocoa supply chain, giving our manufacturing customers unprecedented transparency over where their cocoa ingredients come from right back to the farm or community. On our AtSource platform, they can also view data about everything from the sustainability programmes implemented in that community, to the water and carbon footprint of the crop. 

This understanding of provenance also creates an authenticity that resonates with consumers. For example, the appetite for fully traceable and segregated ingredients with a strong provenance story is fuelling the growing trend in single-origin cocoa. Industry figures show there has been a 25% increase in chocolate launches with a single-origin claim since 2015 (CAGR) and we expect this to continue as manufacturers put ingredients like cocoa front and centre of new product development.

Products like cocoa, which come with natural benefits, can also help to simplify ingredients lists. They can help product developers keep their formulations simple, providing a natural colour and flavour to snacks and boosting a product’s health credentials. 

Ingredients are not only a means of enhancing flavour; they can also tell a powerful story. In a competitive market, selecting ingredients that are simple, fully traceable and support health claims will help create products which can capture consumers’ imaginations – and keep them coming back for more.

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