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Perceptions of ‘natural’

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Understanding what consumers want is critical in helping to create sustainable solutions based on real insights. Givaudan has been exploring perceptions of what ‘natural’ means in Europe, Africa and the Middle East in order to develop a model and tools that can be universally applied to the development of our customers’ natural flavours.

In recent years the notion of natural has taken on increasing importance for consumers. But does it mean the same thing to everyone, everywhere? Does natural mean a taste, a guarantee of origin, or the way something is produced? 

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Legal framework

Since 2009, a clear legal framework defines what is ‘natural’ in terms of flavour labelling in Europe: in general, the term ‘natural’ may only be used for substances derived directly from animal or vegetable material. Beyond the regulatory framework, however, consumers in different countries have different perceptions of what natural means.

To understand how those concerns break down culturally, Givaudan’s Consumer Sensory Insights team undertook a study entitled ‘Natural for Consumers’. Their objective was to identify perceptions of natural and how they influence people in their product purchases. 

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Cultural differences

Sophie, Consumer Sensory Insights Head EAME, explains the scope of the study:

“Our study was conducted with more than 4,000 consumers in several European countries. The aim of the study was to see if we could build a meaningful model that could be applicable in any market.”

By analysing the data, the team created the ‘Natural Wheel’, an innovative online tool that links our technologies and solutions to each important dimension consumers consider about natural during the purchase process.

“In general terms, to consumers, natural means ‘as intended by nature’, and is pure and unprocessed in some way – it retains its natural integrity,” says Sophie, expanding upon some of the findings from the countries: “In France, for example, we found that what is most important is the ecological aspect of natural. In the UK it’s about going back in time to a more natural era, when food was simpler and less processed.  Germany puts more emphasis on organic, and for Russians it’s about resistance to chemicals in their food  very different nuances that we believe will cover the spectrum on national and cultural takes on ‘natural’, wherever we apply it, allowing us to aid customers’ flavour creation and development.”

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Supporting sustainability

With naturals and health and well-being as key drivers of Givaudan’s corporate strategy, the study provides insights on what natural means to consumers. We can use these insights on naturals along with our tools to help our customers create healthier, less processed products that consumers prefer.

With Givaudan’s TasteSolutions®, for example, we help customers to develop healthier new products, many of which increasingly have a ‘natural’, element, while reducing fat, sugar and salt levels.

Furthermore, global demand for natural ingredients cannot be sustainably satisfied through the procurement of raw materials. Givaudan’s flavour innovations make a contribution to sustainability by providing customers and consumers with delicious natural flavours that don’t exhaust the world's natural resources.