February 9, 2022

Sustainability labels are more important than ever with more than half of global consumers saying they impact their decision at the checkout, according to new research.

The study found that 55% of the consumers surveyed were more likely to purchase packaged food items such as crisps and biscuits if it had a sustainability claim, according to Cargill’s most recent global FATitudes survey.

This marks a four-point jump since the company last fielded this research in 2019.

As Cargill’s managing director, Nese Tagma explains:  “Our latest findings clearly demonstrate that messages surrounding sustainability are having an impact on consumers.

“Insights like these help guide our consumer-focused approach to innovation, enabling us to partner with customers to co-create new products and solutions that reflect current consumer trends and ingredient preferences.”

The Minnesota based company surveyed around 6,000 grocery shoppers in 11 countries during the summer of 2021 to better understand their views on sustainable labels.

In more than half of these countries, there was a notable increase in the level of importance consumers attributed to sustainability labels related to the environment.

Both Brazil and Mexico saw the greatest increase between 2019 and 2021, with a 13 point jump in the importance of sustainability labels on the decision making of grocery shoppers. 

India also experienced a double digit rise, with 67% of consumers saying they were more likely to buy ‘sustainable’ packaged food – up 11 points from 2019.

In the UK, Cargill found 51% of consumers now say they place a greater emphasis on sustainability, an 8 point jump in just two years.

Meanwhile US consumers were also more attuned to sustainability labels with 37% indicating they were more likely to purchase packaged food with a sustainability label, a 6 point increase compared to 2019.

The Organic Crave Company sustainability labels
The Organic Crave Company

What type of sustainability labels do consumers look for?

For the first time, the survey also asked consumers what type of sustainability labels they were looking for.

“Sustainably sourced” and “conservation of natural resources” topped the list, ranking well ahead of more specific claims such as Fair Trade, reduced packaging, and fair/living wages in almost every country included in the survey.

“These insights further affirm our commitment to embed sustainable practices into every aspect of our operations,” said Florian Schattenmann, chief technology officer and vice president of innovation and R&D for Cargill.

“This includes everything from our sourcing practices to processing facilities, and even extends to new product development, where decisions to commercialise innovations now consider sustainability alongside performance and cost.”

Cargill already provides sustainable solutions to meet consumer and customer needs for oils, from regenerative agriculture programmes for row crop oilseeds to palm oil certified responsibly sourced by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).

In the coming year, Cargill will expand its North American portfolio of RSPO-segregated palm oil to include palm stearin and palm olein products, positioning the company to support customers in this geography with a full portfolio of sustainable palm-sourced products. RSPO-segregated palm products are also available in Europe, Russia, Australia/New Zealand and Malaysia.

To further ensure a reliable supply of sustainably sourced palm oil, Cargill is investing in a new palm oil refinery in Indonesia and upgrading capabilities at its specialty fats facilities around the globe.

When complete, the new and expanded facilities will help Cargill meet the evolving expectations around sustainability, as highlighted in the current global FATitudes consumer research.

Alongside these efforts, the company is also helping food manufacturers address the growing interest in consumer health.

In December 2021, Cargill became the first edible oils supplier to commit to removing industrially-produced trans-fatty acids (ITFAs) from its entire global edible oils portfolio, in line with the World Health Organization’s best practices.

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