Kerry Unveils Consumer Research Confirming Growing Consumer Expectations of Food Safety

Results around emerging new categories such as plant-based meat and dairy highlight areas for education and improvement within the food and beverage industry, Kerry said.

Plant-based Protein Alternatives
Plant-based Protein Alternatives
Adobe Stock, Katty Sever

TRALEE, Ireland — Kerry, a taste and nutrition company, has released findings from its latest research on North American consumer attitudes, behaviors and purchasing choices as they relate to food safety, sustainability and preventing food waste.

While consumer purchasing remains very much centered on the most basic need of nutrition, the research confirms that consumers are shopping more consciously and that they are seeking out food that is perceived as natural. Plus, with COVID-19 shining a light on the complex nature of global food supply chains, consumer concern with the safety of food is escalating.

Kerry’s research confirmed that fresh meat remains the primary category for consumer safety concerns, with two-thirds of consumers citing it as their number one food category of concern. To build consumer trust, Kerry said, the food industry has an opportunity to increase transparency of the supply chain from farm to factory to shelf and provide further education on the safety measures taken along the way.

The findings showed that 49% of consumers have questions about the safety of plant-based meat alternatives, while 51% of consumers are concerned with plant-based dairy alternatives. The value of plant-based meat is expected to reach $279 billion by 2025 as consumers increasingly turn attention to health, nutrition, sustainability and food provenance. It doesn’t seem to be intuitive to consumers or the industry that the pathogen risks in plant-based meat alternatives are the same as in meat, and food safety in this space is not yet as highly regulated. Due to the wide range of substrates used, plant-based meats may have diverse susceptibility to microbial spoilage. Like their meat-based counterparts, they are near neutral in pH, high in protein and moisture content, so it is imperative that appropriate microbiological control mechanisms are put in place, Kerry said.

To bring the research to life, Kerry has created an interactive educational digital tool, where food industry professionals can uncover key consumer food safety concerns in emerging categories and channels such as plant-based foods and beverages and food service as well as gauge their overall food safety knowledge. The interactive tool can be accessed here.

“Our proprietary consumer research confirmed that COVID-19 has accelerated an underlying trend of consumer attention to food safety," said Neil Cracknell, president and CEO of applied health and nutrition at Kerry. "Consumers want reassurance from the food industry on how the food has been sourced, how it has been produced and how it has been protected, both from a microbiological perspective and increasingly from a physical perspective. Consumers want safe food, and food they can trust. Our new interactive tool brings these research findings to life and provides an opportunity for food industry professionals to assess their overall food safety knowledge.”

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