Recent research carried out by Ingredion has revealed that the food industry can no longer afford to ignore the influence of technology on consumer buying habits as ‘webrooming’ becomes widespread. Webrooming, the practice of scrutinising ingredient lists and verifying nutritional claims online before buying in store, is increasingly common. The survey indicates that 48% of respondents across Europe, the Middle-East and Africa are already using technology to compare products and 17% frequently change their mind about buying food and drink after checking information online.
Technology is playing a decisive role in the continuing trend towards greater transparency within the food and drink industry, in particular, the rise of mobile apps. Used in-store and at the point of purchase, their influence is apparent, over one in ten of respondents said they always use mobile apps to check nutritional values and 46% sometimes do so.
Charlotte Commarmond, senior director, marketing and innovation, Ingredion EMEA, comments, “Consumers are increasingly interested in what goes into their food and where it comes from. Combine this with tech developments and the ability to verify product information wherever and whenever and it’s clear that the era of the savvy purchaser is here. It is no longer enough to have a label that looks good. It goes beyond simply attracting shoppers to pick up a product or put it in a virtual shopping basket. The webrooming phenomenon means that consumers are actively interrogating information and by doing so, becoming more aware of issues such as low-fat alternatives potentially being higher in sugar or salt.
“This has an impact on how food manufacturers approach their new product development and recipe formulation or reformulation. Ingredient replacement cannot compromise the nutritional value of a product, it is about exploring ways to find a clean label solution that is both affordable and maintains, or even boosts, its dietary profile. If we don’t become more transparent if and ingredient lists and claims don’t meet consumer expectations, then according to our study, around one in five will buy healthier alternatives elsewhere.”
Consumers are particularly turning to technology when looking to switch brands and to check out product information online, before buying new food or drinks. They do so both at home (30%), and in-store (23%), but particularly when comparing their usual purchase with an alternative (48%).
In some African and Middle Eastern countries, the use of technology to check product information is notably higher than in mainland Europe. In both Kenya and the United Arab Emirates, 67% of respondents said they sometimes use mobile apps to look up nutritional information – well above the survey average of 46%. By comparison, just 31% of German consumers and 38% of UK consumers said the same.
Commarmond concludes, “This research indicates that not only is technology being used to validate product and ingredient information but that consumers are proactively checking products before they buy – not making uninformed choices only based on the labeling or brand of a product.
“This type of product information is becoming more critical in determining final buying decisions. Consumer-friendly ingredients combined with clear, accessible information will be key to broadening transparency and building trust with customers.”
Source: Food & Drink Technology