I used to stand in the supermarket aisle, squinting at the back of some packaged food items while glancing down at my phone as I type very specific questions into Google in order to pick the product best suited for me. Now, I research before my shopping trip or stick to the few brands I trust. I get in and out of the store as quickly as possible so that I may get back to my car, return to my apartment, social distance, and sanitize. I don’t scrutinize the label because of a medical issue or severe allergen that means every food choice puts my life at stake. I am what the food industry has dubbed to be a “conscious consumer”.
In fact, I probably fit into many consumer packaged good (CPG) companies customer personas. I’m in my mid-twenties and out of grad school with a full-time job that provides some disposable income for the first time in my life. I’m vegan, shop with the environment in mind, prefer to purchase from independent and small brands, I love trying new and novel foods. At this point I don’t dine out and cook about 95% of my meals at home so I’m spending more on groceries than I ever have before.
Shopping for food can be difficult and it’s not due to lacking adequate resources or nutrition knowledge. I have a Master’s of Science in Food and Nutrition Policy, an upbringing in a kosher household, and a lifetime of lactose-intolerance so I’m quite comfortable describing myself as an expert food package reader. These experiences are a great privilege and I don’t take that lightly; however, I, like many other U.S. consumers find food marketing, food labels, and other aspects of food shopping to be confusing or misleading.
What is on the label is fairly clear; I ignore the pastoral marketing, meaningless claims, and redundant adjectives. For me, most information on food packages is extraneous and the information critical to my purchasing decisions can’t be found on most food labels. That’s why I still Google, use barcode scanning apps, follow brands on social media, and reach out directly to companies with specific questions. I definitely don’t expect every package to read my mind and dedicate valuable packaging space to describe their sourcing, processing, brand history, or company policies. CPG brands and food retailers can’t be mind readers, they can’t possibly tailor their information to my discerning shopping preferences. Wouldn’t that be nice!
I do see positive changes as brands adapt to consumer preferences of greater transparency and values-based purchasing decisions. I’m hopeful that innovation and technology will continue to improve individualized decision making and look forward to more convenient access and personalization in the food shopping experience. This was a huge motivation for my decision to join the Foodspace Tech team.
Instead of waiting for technology and industry to match my expectations, I want to be part of the innovators who will create this change. I want to make the food shopping experience more efficient and solve the pain points consumers are facing as our options expand and online grocery shopping popularity continues to rise.