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The French and the Germans are fond of a convivial atmosphere; the British, Spanish and Americans trust their food products; and the Chinese are keen to eat cheaply. A TNS* survey, conducted on behalf of SIAL, plots a world food map that is diverse, varied and produces many surprises.
In this era of globalisation and the ensuing uniform lifestyles, food is viewed in different ways depending on the country. Pleasure is essential in France and Germany whereas it is a necessity in the USA and Russia. Indeed, 60% of interviewees in France, Germany and China support the statement “eating well means procuring pleasure”, whereas only one American in two agrees with this statement.
Conversely, there is a consensus on “eating well means eating a healthy and well-balanced diet”. This view is relatively uniform in all countries (some 60%), except for China, where these two concepts take on even more importance (84% and 72% respectively). The same is true of food as a means of preventing health problems: a low rating in most countries (13% on average), slightly higher in China (20%) and Spain (almost 20%).
In France, Germany, Spain and Russia, eating well is also associated with variety for 6 consumers in 10, although not so much the case in Great Britain (42%) and, above all, the USA (28%) and China (33%).
The concept of conviviality associated with eating well takes on its full meaning in France, Germany and China (for approximately 60% of interviewees), but is not true of the Anglo-American countries and Russia (less than one-third of individuals). More surprising still is that only French and German consumers are inspired by the altruistic view of food (“giving pleasure to others”)!
Characteristic of China is that “eating well means eating cheaply” for 4 individuals in 10 (compared with 1 in 5 for the other countries). This concept ranks in the Top 5 items associated with eating well in the country!
The research highlights a surprising behavioural paradox. Indeed, consumers in all countries consider their eating habits to be “beneficial to their health” (80% cases) yet “eat more than necessary” (60% cases)! This ambivalent perception of food being good for health coupled with a consciousness of overeating is stronger in the case of individuals who suffer from obesity: 77% of these subjects are conscious that they eat more than necessary yet 66% state that their diets provide health benefits. This paradox is bolstered by a few supplementary observations: in all the countries where the survey was conducted, more than 75% of interviewees stated that they “should watch/be careful about their weight” (some 90% in Russia and China). Better still: 64% of consumers and 35% of underweight individuals (with a body mass index of less than 18.5) stated that they had “made efforts in the past year to maintain or lose weight”.
What is even more surprising is that the various food crises have made a significant impression on the world’s consumers: 1 individual in 2 considers the risk of eating foodstuffs that are bad for his/her health “probable” headed by the Chinese (93%) and, to a lesser extent, the French (59%) and Russians (55%). Despite this observation, consumers show relatively high confidence in food products (84%) overall. Nonetheless, there are wide differences according to the country: more than 90% of the Spanish, British and American sample populations state that they trust their food, a figure that remains high in both France and Germany (85%) and China (80%) but falls to 64% in Russia. It is also important to emphasise that 35% of Russians and 50% of Chinese state that their trust in
food products has diminished. This figure stands at 33% in Germany and France, thus proving that although still strong, their confidence has nevertheless dwindled in time.
This fragile confidence drives consumers to seek reassurance on the basis of tangible proof such as intrinsic product characteristics: composition (55%), origin/place of manufacture (46%) and information on the packaging (45%). Some 40% of individuals are also concerned about product appearance, place of purchase and the presence of a quality label. This last argument takes on its full meaning in rance and in China. The surprise probably comes from the fact that the brand, as an item of reassurance, is quoted by only 36% of consumers in all countries combined. Although brands are still very popular in the USA, Great Britain and China, they are quoted least often in Russia, Germany and France.
Moreover, claims of naturalness and “contains no …” are still popular with consumers since more than 70% consider that the labels “with wholly natural ingredients” or “-free” (preservative-free, pesticide-free, colouring-free, artificial flavours-free, antibiotics-free, GMO-free, etc.) to be “of interest”. The French, Spanish, Russians and Chinese, with more than 80% interest from interviewees, are the most responsive to these claims.
In conclusion, we should state that interest in the labels “organic”, “palm oil-free” and “name of the producer” is mixed: although relatively high in France (53%, 74% and 53%), Russia (85%, 64% and 63%) and China (73%, 51% and 52%), interest is much weaker in the other countries (fewer than 4 consumers in 10 for each item listed).
*For each country: a representative sample (in terms of sex, age, region and socio-economic category) of 1,000 individuals aged 18 and above (except China: 18-55), is used according to the quota method. Environment taken into account: France, Spain, Germany, Great Britain and USA: nationwide; Russia: towns with more than 100,000 inhabitants; China: populations of Tier 1/2/3 towns. Interviews were conducted online in June 2012.