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What's more important: price or taste?

The 2011 Food & Health Survey, conducted in March and April 2011 by the International Food Information Council Foundation(1), is full of findings about consumer perceptions.

As you dig through the 137-page document, you will find a wide variety of survey questions regarding food safety, diet, weight control, additives and, even agricultural technology.

Read the survey with the understanding that the International Food Information Council is “a public relations arm of the food, beverage and agricultural industries, which provide the bulk of its funding,” according to SourceWatch. “Its staff members hail from industry groups such as the Sugar Association and the National Soft Drink Association, and it has repeatedly led the defense for controversial food additives including monosodium glutamate, aspartame (Nutrasweet), food dyes, and olestra.”

One particular set of responses (out of many that concerned us) caught our attention: While 87% of American consumers surveyed said that taste is the most important purchase influencer, they are clearly looking for cheap – and maybe healthy – food. And it appears, from the study, that consumers are rapidly approaching the time when price will become more important than taste.

The number of people surveyed who say that price is a significant driver of purchasing decisions, increased 6% from 2010 (one year) and 15% from 2006 (5 years). At what point will price exceed taste as a driver? Will we then see consumers lining up to buy the cheapest – and possibly tasteless – food products they can find?

But perhaps it is more a matter of how the data are structured. We would suppose that a sample segmented by educational level might show different results. That is, an educated well-informed public might list these factors as most important: taste, healthfulness, and sustainability.

Take the results with a very large grain of salt, as it were! After all, it was Benjamin Desrali (as attributed by Mark Twain) who supposedly said, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

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