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Food Consumer Survey: Freshness is the key

The problem of food waste

Food waste is a big problem these days. The European Commission estimates that each year citizens in the EU throw out an eye-watering 100 million tonnes of food. By any measure that is an awful lot. Read more about waste of manual testing in this blogpost.

Dansensor recently conducted a survey among consumers about their food buying habits to explore this issue among others. The results are intriguing. They show that if food goes off before its use-by date, this isn’t only a nuisance – and costly – for the consumer but could also badly impact on the manufacturer.

Morten Torngaard One of the key lessons of the survey is that consumers like food with an extended shelf life. So manufacturers must make sure that their products are packaged and sealed properly to deliver the promised use-by date. Learn more about shelf life in this case study

Nearly 300 people from 28 countries around the world responded to the survey, in which we asked 22 questions about people’s experience of buying packaged food products. While the survey cannot claim to represent all consumers’ views, it does flag up certain trends.
Morten Torngaard
Sales Manager
MOCON Europe A/S

Expiry date is important for the consumer

Around three out of every four of the survey participants said that they go shopping between one and three times a week, and that they buy the majority of their food from supermarkets. A significant minority of respondents – almost a third – said that they never shop in a specialist store such as a baker or butcher.

More than two-thirds of the people in the survey said that they check the expiry date on a product before they buy it. This contrasts with only around a third who check the ingredient list. “This suggests that people are very aware of the use-by date, and take it into account when choosing their food products,” says  Dansensor’s Sales Manager, Morten Torngaard.

Having said that, more than three-quarters of the participants said that they had bought a food product that had gone bad before the use-by date. You might think that this would bring a deluge of complaints to the retailer or producer. “Apparently not,” notes Morten. “In the big majority of these cases – 80% – the consumer did not complain to either the store or to the manufacturer; rather they just threw the product out.”

Consumers often do not alert producers that there is a problem

But – and this is something of a cautionary tale for manufacturers – more than half of the survey participants said that they stopped buying a particular food brand if on a number of occasions the food had been of poor quality. “The problem here for manufacturers is that if consumers do not complain about a product but stop buying that particular brand, the manufacturer will lose sales but will not be alerted to the fact that there is a packaging problem,” Morten notes.

The majority of respondents in the survey said that freshness was a key factor in packaged products. They also said that products such as cheese, meat, bread and packaged vegetables were the ones that were most likely to perish before the expiry date.

Quality assurance vital for producers to protect their brand

“The lesson here is for food manufacturers to make sure that they have robust quality assurance procedures in place before, so that they can be certain of the quality of the product before it leaves the factory gates,” says Morten. “This is a major step in protecting the brand, and also in reducing the amount of food waste. That is something I am sure everyone would like to see”. Learn more about quality assurance here.
  • Consumers are well informed about shelf life

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