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Freshness a Factor in Consumer Loyalty

Survey shows customers willing to pay more for improved packaging

WILMINGTON, Del. -- Nearly three quarters of U.S. consumers are willing to pay more for improved food and beverage packaging that guarantees freshness, based on a survey released this week by DuPont and according to a report in Progressive Grocer.

The consumer survey, sponsored by DuPont and conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs, queried 1,172 U.S. consumers in order to identify their food purchasing attitudes and behavior.

In addition, the survey results revealed that freshness and taste are top concerns for consumers when [image-nocss] they are purchasing food, beating out price, convenience and brand. In fact, more than half of U.S. consumers (60%) ranked taste or freshness as the most important factor when they are purchasing food.

"In the land of convenience is king,' where fast food restaurants and ATMs prevail, U.S. consumers are demanding freshness as well as convenience in their food," said Donna L. Visioli of DuPont Packaging & Industrial Polymers. "The survey confirms that aspects beyond price and convenience -- namely freshness and taste -- are key deciding factors among U.S. consumers."

According to the survey, a majority of respondents (72%) were willing to spend at least 10 cents on a $3 food item -- or an additional 3% -- on better packaging that guarantees freshness. On average, the food and beverage industry currently allocates 5% of the total cost of food products to packaging, according to the report.

U.S. consumers were also questioned about their experience with inferior packaging of food. One-third of respondents (31%) recalled an experience when they had to discard food items because of inferior packaging. At the same time, three out of four consumers (77%) said that an experience with inferior packaging would impact their decision to buy the same product again.

"Our findings show that faulty or mediocre packaging impacts brand loyalty," said Visioli. "There is a tremendous opportunity for food companies to focus efforts on upgrading packaging to impact freshness, extend shelf life and reinforce brand loyalty."

Survey results also found that when asked about a recent experience with spoiled food, 32% recalled an instance within the past two weeks when they purchased food that was not fresh. When asked about the types of food being discarded because of spoilage, consumers cited fresh vegetables and salad bags (58%); fresh fruits (49%); breads (48%); and milk, yogurt and cheese (29%) as the top four types.

Other key findings of the survey include:

"Fresh" means different things to different people. One-third of respondents defined freshness as the appearance/taste/aroma of foods. One-third equated it with the expiration date. The remaining third were split among other elements including safety and lack of preservatives.

Freshness is a top concern for consumers when considering food packaging. When thinking specifically about packaging, U.S. consumers ranked freshness (34%) as the most important factor, over price (25%), expiration date (24%), and tamper resistance (9%).

Seeing is believing. An overwhelming majority (90%) primarily use the appearance of food to determine if it has spoiled, followed by aroma (84%), and expiration date (63%).

Consumers throw away food regularly. Nearly half of consumers polled (47%) discard food at least every two weeks.

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