Food Demand Survey (FooDS) - October 2016

The latest edition of the Food Demand Survey (FooDS) is now out.  

From the regular tracking portion of the survey, a few items stood out.  First, there was a notable rise both in consumers' awareness of GMOs in the news over the past couple weeks and in concern that GMOs pose a food safety risk.  Here is the graphic on awareness of GMOs in relation to the other issues tracked.  I'm not aware of any major news items driving the uptick in awareness and concern for GMOs, but perhaps I've missed something.

In addition to this issue, consumers' said they expect somewhat lower beef, chicken, and pork prices this month as compared to last, and planned purchases of beef, chicken, and pork all rose as well.  In fact, compared to one year ago, planed purchases of all three meat products are markedly higher.  You can read the whole report to see changes in willingness-to-pay, etc.

Several ad hoc questions were added to the survey this month. The questions focused on consumers’ purchases of and beliefs about seven “niche” or “emerging” food products, and for comparison purposes, one conventional product, beef.

Participants were initially asked: “Have you consumed the following foods at least once in the past five years?” The question was followed by a list of eight food items and respondents simply answered “yes” or “no”. 

Approximately 95% have eaten beef in the last five years. Less than 25% of participants have consumed either goat, rabbit, kombucha, or emu in the last five years. A little over a quarter of respondents said they had eaten bison. About one third of participants stated they have eaten chia seed or quinoa. Less than 10% of participants stated they had eaten emu in the last five years.

I had a little bet running with some of my graduate students on the popularity of these items (and truth be told, some of the suggested items came from them).  One student - who will remain nameless - predicted half the population had tried kombucha.  I'd never heard of it (it's a kind of fermented tea which allegedly has a variety of health benefits).  My guess was less than 10%.  I suppose we were both wrong, as the answer was  14.1%.   

The survey proceeded to ask about the perceived health (1=very unhealthy; 5=very healthy), tasty (1=very untasty; 5=very tasty), and affordability (1=very unaffordable; 5=very affordable) of each of the eight items.  The results are below.  

On average, people thought chia seed and quinoa were the most healthy followed by beef and bison.  All foods averaged above a three, meaning they were perceived as more healthy than not.

Beef dominated the other items in terms of perceived taste. About 88% of respondents said beef was either “very taste” or “somewhat tasty”.  By contrast for the next most tasty item, only 49% of respondents said the same about bison.  On average, beef was perceived as most tasty followed by bison and then rabbit.   Kombucha was the only item for which the mean score was less than three - meaning it was perceived as more untasty than tasty.


Finally was the question on affordability.  Somewhat surprisingly, beef was rated as most affordable on average followed by quinoa and chia seed.  Bison and emu were seen as least affordable, and the mean rating indicates both were viewed as more affordable than affordable.