The Food Demand Survey (FooDS) gauges consumer’s attitudes and understanding on safety, quality, and price of food consumed both at home and outside the home, focusing on meat products. Findings for the March 2014 FooDS report indicate US consumers from February to March spent more on groceries, less on restaurant meals, and concern about GMO foods is on the rise.
Jayson Lusk, regents professor in OSU’s Department of Agricultural Economics, told FoodProductionDaily.com processors armed with such information can better keep track of consumer trends, and form more solid production plans in the coming months.
“The data in FooDS should help understand changes in past consumer behaviors and the effects of various events on food demand,” he said. “We hope to better link food safety recalls, news events, and other developments to changes (or the lack thereof) in food demand.”
Particularly, Lusk pointed out, the data in the FooDS will help meat processors forecast changes in consumer demand for their wares.
“We are working on research to determine what predictive power, if any, the data have,” he said. “The data should aid in planning, pricing, and advertising decisions."
One interesting aspect of the research, Lusk told FPD, is the gap in between what customers say they do, and what they actually end up doing.
“Every month, consumers tell us—by a relatively wide margin—they plan to eat out less, but when the next month comes, the reported expenditures on food away from home often don’t change much,” he said. “Perhaps it’s a bit like weight loss; everyone says they plan to start a diet next month but then, of course, when the next month rolls around, they often don’t change."
Lusk pointed out a number of other findings of interest to food manufacturing firms and brand owners. These include consumers viewing salt as natural but not “sodium chloride” (which is the chemical name for table salt); concern about the health of the meat supply paired with ignorance of actual issues impacting the industry; and a greater expressed interest in GMO labeling than label info on serving size or particular nutrients.
“Although consumers report hearing more about GMOs relative to other controversial issues over the past year, they have not (by and large) become relatively more concerned about the issue,” Lusk pointed out.
Finally, Lusk said, one bright spot in the report involves evidence that despite challenges the meat industry has faced thanks to contamination incidents, production conditions, and other issues, it is still going strong.
“It is remarkable how resilient meat demand has been in light of the large amount of negative publicity it has received in the media about animal welfare, food safety, climate change, environmental impacts, etc.,” he said.
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