Consumers are Confused about “non-GMO” and “organic” Labels

The Meatingplace reported on a new study conducted by researchers at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. They found more results pointing to confusion amongst consumers when evaluating “non-GMO” and “organic” labels.

How the Study Worked

Researchers based their findings on a national survey of 1,132 respondents. These people were specifically asked about their willingness to pay more for food labeled as non-GMO or genetically modified. The two products that the researched focused on were a 12-pack of granola bars versus fresh apples. The evaluated how much more respondents would pay for either of these items labeled as “Non-GMO Project Verified” or “USDA Organic.”

Their Findings Showcase Confused Consumers

The team of researchers found that consumers will pay $0.35 more for a 12-pack of granola bars with the “Non-GMO Project Verified” label on the packaging. However, the “USDA Organic” label did not hold as much weight, as consumers would only pay $0.09 more for the granola bars.

When consumers looked at fresh apples, things changed. Consumers were willing to pay $0.35 more for a pound of fresh apples labeled as “Non-GMO Project Verified” while they were willing to pay $0.40 more for the same pound of fresh apples labeled as “USDA Organic.” It seems that the “USDA Organic” label carries more weight in fresh produce than processed foods based on this study.

Why are Consumers Confused?

Consumers have almost done this to themselves as they have demanded more product transparency from brands over the past few years. Food companies are scrambling to add claims that stick out and show their food is “real.” Label Insight showcased last year that consumers find it difficult to understand if a product meets their needs by looking at the package.

What’s interesting about this new study from the University of Florida is how consumers are confused about “organic” and “non-GMO.” According to the USDA, the use of GMOs is prohibited in “organic” foods. So in reality, all organic foods are “non-GMO.” However, not all “non-GMO” foods are organic. Which makes it even more interesting that consumers are willing to pay more for packaged products with the non-GMO project verified logo.

The bottom line is education is needed on this subject. As food manufacturers invest in more organic foods and certifications, they expect consumers to be willing to pay more. This could spell trouble for brand betting big on organic in 2018 and beyond.

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