The Tale Of Two Nations

HOW CONSUMERS ON BOTH SIDES OF THE ATLANTIC STRUGGLE TO FIND FOOD FIT FOR THEIR DIETARY REQUIREMENTS

Key outtakes:

  • 76% of US and 55% of UK population who are on a ingredient-restrictive diet have unintentionally purchased or been served food that didn’t align to their dietary requirements
  • Food choice error is a frequent problem; 39% of UK and 61% of US respondents say that this happens at least once a month
  • 53% of US and 45% of UK respondents who find food shopping difficult make mistakes at least once a week
  • Problems eating out affect at least 9 in 10 of both UK and US respondents – with waiter errors being the no.1 reason
  • 83% of UK and 76% of US  respondents say technology can be used to solve labelling ambiguity; greatest support from younger generations

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London, February 2019: NEW research by Spoon Guru has found that three quarters of American with exclusion diets (76%) have unintentionally purchased or been served food restricted from their diet, compared to 55% of those in the United Kingdom.

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Percentage of people who have accidentally bought or been served food that doesn’t fit their dietary requirements

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FREQUENT OCCURRENCE: CONSUMPTION OF UNSUITABLE FOOD

61% of US and 39% of UK consumers revealed that they accidentally purchase food restricted from their diet at least once a month. Shockingly, 33% of US and  21% of UK respondents said that they made mistakes purchasing food at least once a week.

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Percentage of respondents who accidentally purchase or are served food that doesn't align to their dietary requirements at least once a month

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MAIN OFFENDERS: WAITER ERROR AND POOR FOOD LABELLING

In North America, poor or non-existent labelling is the main reason that shoppers accidentally buy food that’s inappropriate for their dietary needs. Meanwhile in the United Kingdom, consumers are purchasing or being served the wrong food primarily due to waiter errors. The third most common reason consumers on both sides of the pond purchased the wrong food was due to personal error. Interestingly, US shoppers were much more likely to blame themselves and less likely to blame their waiters than their UK counterparts.

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Why respondents accidentally bought or were served food that doesn't align to their dietary requirements - Waiter's Error; Labelling; Consumer Error

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BIGGEST CHALLENGE: EATING OUT WITH AN EXCLUSION DIET

The research found that challenges eating out affects the vast majority of people with food-restrictive diets in the UK and US. At least 9 out of 10 respondents in both countries say that they find this the most difficult setting in which to manage their dietary preferences. Meanwhile, grocery shopping is a much bigger problem for shoppers in the US than in the UK.

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Respondents who find Dining Out & Grocery Shopping the scenarios that are most difficult to manage their dietary preferences

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SNUBBED BY WAITERS: CONSUMERS WITH DIETARY RESTRICTIONS FACE PREJUDICE

Our research shows that consumers experience prejudice or disinterest from staff while ordering food because of their allergy or dietary preference. The problem is far more pronounced in the UK than in the US; 60% of UK respondents have experienced prejudice vs 46% of US respondents. Interestingly, in the UK, it’s mainly women who expressed facing prejudice or disinterest from staff, whereas in the US it’s men.

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Percentage of respondents who ever experienced prejudice or disinterest from staff while ordering food because of their food allergy or dietary preference

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GROCERY SHOPPING IS A FRUSTRATING EXPERIENCE; MILLENNIALS IN US STRUGGLE THE MOST ONLINE

77% of UK and 70% of US respondents who find grocery shopping (online and in-store) most difficult for managing their dietary requirements say they make mistakes due to poor or non-existent labelling.

These shoppers are also making mistakes with alarming regularity. 45% of UK and 47% of US respondents said that they are making errors at least once a week.

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Percentage of consumers who say that poor or non-existent labelling is the reason why shopping is the most difficult scenario in which to manage their diet

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Respondents who find In-store & Online Shopping the scenarios that are most difficult to manage their dietary preference

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While in-store shopping is the greater challenge for consumers in both countries, we see that online shopping is much more of a struggle in the United States.

Millennials¹ in the US struggle with online grocery shopping more than their UK counterparts. Only 6% of UK millennials call this out as being a particularly difficult scenario for managing their diet preferences, compared to the US where 23% say they find it difficult.

Similar trends can be seen when comparing Generation X² groups from the US and UK. US Generation X say they struggle with in-store and online grocery shopping more than their UK counterparts, and the gap is most greatly seen online – 14% for the US versus only just 7% for the UK.

Interestingly, when comparing Baby Boomers³ we see quite a different story. With this age group US respondents report less difficulty shopping in-store and online than Baby Boomers in the UK. In fact US Baby Boomers are the least likely (13%) to call out in-store grocery shopping as a scenario where managing their diet is difficult, whereas in the UK Baby Boomers (19%) struggle the most.

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Respondents who find In-store Shopping & Online Shopping the most difficult scenario to manage their dietary preferences - by age

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Men struggle more than women when it comes to shopping

Men are more likely to struggle than women with grocery shopping in both the UK and US. We also see that they are more likely to make mistakes when ordering or buying food in general; 44% of US men said they made food choice mistakes at least once a week, compared to 25% of women in the US, and 29% of men in the UK.

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Respondents who find In-store & Online Shopping the scenarios that are most difficult to manage their dietary preference - by gender

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HUNGRY FOR MORE: CONSUMERS THIRST FOR GREATER FOOD LABELLING CLARITY

In the UK almost everyone with a food restriction (99%) said that they expect retailers to assist in food search and go beyond current regulations compared to 86% in the US. Very few objected to retailers assisting, however, in the US 11% of respondents were unsure what role retailers could play in making food search and discovery easier.

There was also a difference in opinions across age groups in the two nations surveyed. In the United Kingdom Baby Boomers were the least supportive of retailers taking on a greater responsibility for food transparency, whereas in the United States they were the most supportive.

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Percentage of respondents who believe that retailers have a responsibility to be transparent about food ingredients, regardless of current legislation

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Broad support for better legislation on both sides of the Atlantic

The vast majority of consumers want current food labelling rules to be improved. 94% of UK and 82% of US respondents believe that there needs to be improved food labelling legislation. In the UK only 1% object to the idea, whereas 10% of the US respondents oppose new legislation. In the UK it’s allergy sufferers who most want to see improvements to food labelling, whereas in the US it’s those on lifestyle diets.

While there was equally strong support for new legislation across age groups in the UK, support in the US grows as the respondents get older.

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Percentage of respondents who support suggestions of new food labelling rules

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LIFTING THE LID: HUGE EXPECTATION FOR  TECHNOLOGY TO PROVIDE MORE FOOD TRANSPARENCY

Over three quarters of respondents in both the US and UK agreed that technology can help improve clarity around food ingredient information, with Millennials and Generation X being particularly supportive. However, there is a fair amount of ambiguity as to the role technology can play. Baby Boomers in particular were unsure about how technology could help, with 21% of UK and 34% of US this age group giving ‘not sure’ as an answer.

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Percentage of respondents who see technology as a key enabler to improving clarity around food ingredients

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Respondents who see technology as a key enabler to improving clarity around food ingredients - by age

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SUMMARY

Finding foods while being on an ingredient-restrictive diet is not easy whether you are in the United States or United Kingdom. The greatest difficulties occur while eating out, when you don’t have a full understanding of what is being served.  The survey highlights that relying on waiters or caterers to provide the right answers is often felt to be unreliable.

Even when grocery shopping – where the consumer has full control – those with allergies, intolerances or on a lifestyle diet are prone to errors. 45% of UK and 53% of US respondents who find food shopping difficult are making mistakes at least once a week.

Markus Stripf, co-founder & CEO of Spoon Guru commented: “The study has unveiled interesting insights about consumers with specific dietary needs in both nations, and while there are some key differences, it’s clear one of the biggest challenges facing consumers in the UK and US is clarity.

“Overall, the research revealed that consumers crave transparency from both on-trade and off-trade retailers to make their food discovery experience much more inclusive. As such, there an overwhelming support for better legislations to be introduced in order to reduce the challenges consumers face in the UK and US.”

Stripf continued: “Interestingly, while there is an exception for retailers to do more and for labelling rules to be updated, it’s a shared belief across the age groups in the two nations that technology can help to resolve food labelling issues. Thankfully, leveraging technology is something retailers and other food businesses are adopting in both the UK and US, and is set to continue as more discussions about food transparency come to light.”

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Data collected through online questionnaire; surveyed 2,000 US adults and 1,332 UK adults who follow a lifestyle diet or have a food intolerance or allergy in December 2018

¹Millennials refers to respondents aged 18-39 in the UK and 18-34 in the US
²Generation X refers to respondents aged 40-59 in the UK, and 40-59 in the US
³Baby Boomers refers to respondents aged 60 and over in the UK, and 55 and over in the US

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By |2019-03-04T10:10:17+01:00February 13th, 2019|Blog, Spoon Guru News|