Consumer concerns about genetically modified foods are increasing, while the market for non-GMO products continues to see exponential growth.
These were key messages of a recent education session: “Formulating from Seed to Shelf: GMO and Non-GMO Considerations” held at the IFT Expo in July in Chicago.
59 percent of consumers using non-GMO products
According to Steve French, managing partner at Natural Marketing Institute, the number of non-GMO product launches increased from 551 in 2012 to 1,992 in 2014, a growth rate of 262 percent. Product categories that saw the most non-GMO product introductions included bakery, snacks, and dairy.
The number of people using non-GMO products increased from 37 percent in 2012 to 59 percent in 2014.
Consumption of non-GMO products is increasing among all age groups—baby boomers, generation X, millennials, and matures, according to French whose company surveys consumer attitudes about GMOs and non-GMO foods. Millennials lead the way with 72 percent saying they used non-GMO products in the past year.
“Consumers are stating top of mind that GMOs are becoming one of the things they are looking for when choosing products,” French said.
In 2014, 58 percent of consumers surveyed responded “yes” to the following statement: “It is important for their store to carry products that do not include GM ingredients.”
Fifty-five percent of consumers would be less likely to buy a product if it contained GMOs, and one-third said they would stop buying a brand if they learned it contained GMOs.
French had a warning for food manufacturers. “If you are in the supply chain or a brand owner, you should think about what happens if a competitor is promoting their products as non-GMO,” he said.
It’s not about science; it’s about consumer choice”
French said that concerns about GM foods have increased dramatically in the past two years.
“Both awareness and concern about GMOs are up,” he said.
In response to a question from an audience member about GMO concerns vanishing as “consumers understand GMOs are not toxic,” French said “I think it’s definitely here to stay. This is part of a trend towards clean (food) labels and transparency. It’s not about science; it’s about choice. Consumers want to know they do have a choice.”