Puratos reveals Canadian consumer insights from global survey on bakery products
By Doug Picklyk
Puratos shared the results of the company’s latest Taste Tomorrow global research study with a room full of bakery professionals in early May at Toronto’s Old Mill Inn.
The full-day event was part of an international series with previous stops in Berlin, Chicago and London. With an overall theme of innovation and a goal of enhancing industry knowledge and sharing consumer insights, the day also included a line-up of guest speakers delivering presentations on marketing, retail trends and product development.
Conducted every three years, the most recent Taste Tomorrow survey gathered information from nearly 11,000 consumers in 25 countries, and focused on their perceptions and behaviours related to baked goods and chocolate.
Liesbet Vandepoel of Puratos Canada and Michael Gleason of Puratos USA delivered the results in Toronto, which focused on findings gathered primarily from the Americas region, including Canada, the U.S., Mexico, Brazil, Chile and Colombia. In total, the sample accounted for close to 2,900 responses, including 430 Canadians.
The four primary observations taken from the results were:
- Consumers expect to see more diversity in foods in the future because we are living in an age of abundance.
- People are concerned about the quality and healthiness of foods declining in the years to come.
- Consumers are challenged when it comes to understanding what is healthy to eat.
- There is a level of concern with respect to sustainability when it comes to food production and consumption.
On the topic of abundance, compared to three years ago, people believed more food diversity, more on-the-go solutions and other positive opportunities were coming, yet only 33 per cent expected food to be of higher quality in the future. Only 25 per cent of Canadian consumers believe food will be tastier by 2025.
As consumers don’t equate more availability in the future with better quality, it was determined that the food supply is under pressure. The survey indicated that among North American consumers, Canadians are among the most pessimistic. The survey says only 19 per cent of consumers in Canada expect food quality will improve, and 39 per cent of Canadian consumers expect food to be less natural in the future.
With respect to health knowledge, messages are getting “lost in translation.” While people are bombarded with food-related messages across all media channels, detailed consumer knowledge is limited. For example, 45 per cent of survey respondents in the Americas believe gluten can cause digestive problems for the majority of people. Only 31 per cent of consumers in Canada share that belief. However, 51 per cent of Canadian consumers think “bread should be avoided if one is paying attention to weight.”
The opportunity exists for companies in the food industry to share their expertise and get the right messages out, but the challenge is getting lost among all the non-experts in the media sharing their opinions with the world.
On the topic of sustainability, people realize they are throwing away more bread than they would like. Consumers see it’s a waste of food and money.
Canadians score below average in the Americas when it comes to throwing away bread and above the average when it comes to storing bread in the freezer. Forty-five per cent of consumers in Canada store bread in the freezer on a weekly basis, which is 30 per cent higher than the regional average.
A key message taken from the themes found in the survey results is that consumers want to be in control of what they’re consuming. Puratos labeled the study “The New Consumer Rules” and identified three specific criteria that are most important to consumers — freshness, health and taste—referred to as the baked goods triangle.
When consumers are asked how they evaluate the freshness of baked goods, smell is the number one criteria, followed by when the product was made and the overall look of the product. Customers appreciate when they can view an oven in a bakery; it provides a sense of freshness. When asked about selling baked goods online, 21 per cent of Canadians say yes to an online bakery, the biggest limitation being the inability to smell the goods.
When it comes to health, it’s all about using natural ingredients. Sixty-one per cent of Canadians want natural baked goods. The challenge for bakeries is marrying healthy with tasty.
More food for thought
Beyond the survey results, attendees received food facts and trend insights from Abby Sharp, a registered dietician, blogger and social influencer. Sharp spoke of new food trends like meal kits and meal delivery services that are providing consumers with ingredients to make quick, healthy meals. She noted how the emergence of the Food Network and popularity of Instagram and YouTube channels have made food into entertainment. And she noted there is a mentality change underfoot around healthy food. The perception is that by eating fresh, natural foods, people feel clean, whereas eating junk food leaves people feeling like junk.
For food producers, she says chasing the latest trends can be a fool’s game. Sharp recommends investing in strong communications about what healthy food is and how your products fit those criteria.
Andrea Ng, senior manager with Deloitte Canada, shared a visual interpretation of today’s omni-channel retail universe. Consumers are more digital-friendly and online search is affecting all aspects of the path to purchase, including pre-purchase (research), purchase and post-purchase (reviews). Ng said digital devices impact 41 per cent of retail sales.
There is a lot of digital data being captured, and it’s available for businesses to analyze. The challenge is in the interpretation. But this data is leading to the rise of the insight-driven organization. “Data helps make decisions better and faster,” Ng said.
Beverly D’Cruz, marketing director with KFC Canada, shared her experiences with connecting to Canadian consumers. Citing the rise of the Internet and Canada’s changing demographics due to immigration, she said brand owners need to better understand what is happening in their customers’ lives. Her research showed Canadians take pride in items that are made in Canada, and buying local is important. She shared KFC’s new advertising program aimed at connecting with Canadian values and common experiences, like new immigrants learning to skate.
On the product research front, Karl de Smedt, communication and training manager with Puratos, shared his passion for sourdough and explained the origins of Puratos’ sourdough library in Belgium.
The company started collecting, storing, analyzing and documenting sourdoughs from around the world in October 2013. To date the library has collected 84. This year Puratos is expanding its quest and is creating a website to register sourdoughs from around the world. The library is a non-profit initiative, opening eyes to the diversity of sourdough.
Two executives from Fuse Marketing Group presented the final session at the event. The duo encouraged businesses to practice fearless thinking when it comes to promoting their brand. Like the earlier session, they identified that through digital channels businesses are able to collect plenty of insights about their customers. From these findings companies need to turn data into a story that will resonate with their consumers. Finding a story that connects with your audience will help sell your brand. Their advice was to think big, innovate and entertain your audience.
During breaks in the day attendees were invited to a marketplace room, where examples of consumer-friendly innovations were on display, including a diversity of flavours and clear labeling. Visitors were even able to personalize chocolate bark treats with healthy ingredients of their own choosing.
The Taste Tomorrow world tour continues, heading next to Paris, Düsseldorf and Bucharest.