CHICAGO - Foods bearing “free-from” claims, including meat and poultry products, are becoming increasingly important to Americans who perceive the products as more healthy for them when compared to foods without such claims, according to recent research from Mintel, a market research firm.
Mintel learned that 84 percent of consumers buy free-from foods because they desire more natural or less processed foods. Forty-three percent of consumers agree that free-from foods are healthier than foods without a free-from claim, and 59 percent believe that products with fewer ingredients are healthier for them.

“Fat-free may seem like a claim whose best days are behind it, but there is strong consumer interest in such free-from foods, especially trans fat-free, no doubt owing to widespread concern about obesity in the US and its related health consequences,” said Billy Roberts, senior food and drink analyst at Mintel. “Health issues appear to be top of mind among US consumers when seeking products bearing a free-from claim, including those related to heart health and allergies.”

Among the top claims free-from consumers deem most important are:
• trans fat-free, 78 percent;
• preservative-free, 71 percent,
• GMO-free, 58 percent,
• and sodium-free, 57 percent.
Overall, Millennials (60 percent) and Gen X (55 percent) are much more likely than Baby Boomers (46 percent) to agree that they worry about potentially harmful ingredients in the food they buy. However, only 37 percent of consumers overall agree that products with free-from claims are worth paying more for.

While 70 percent of Americans buy free-from foods for health and nutritional reasons, another driving factor for purchasing them is that consumers believe free-from foods are closely tied to the health of the planet. Cage-free and free-range claims are important to 43 percent of free-from consumers, with one quarter (23 percent) ranking it as one of their top three most important free-from claims. Mintel reports that 70 percent of Americans sometimes, often or always consider a company’s ethics when purchasing products. Fifty-six percent have stopped buying a company’s products when they have perceived its actions as unethical.