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  • Press Release

UL Global Study Reveals Critical Influences on the Creation and Consumption of Products

December 6, 2011

NORTHBROOK, IL, Dec. 7, 2011 - - UL (Underwriters Laboratories), a world leader in advancing safety, has developed the first of what will become an annual global study examining the role of perceptions on how and where products are made, sold, bought and consumed. The new study, "Navigating the Product Mindset," explores the connections and contradictions between perceptions of consumers and manufacturers on issues of safety, innovation, performance and sustainability. Global perceptions were collected from consumers and manufacturers in China, India, Germany, and the U.S. across industries in high tech, food, building materials, and household chemicals.

"UL has worked closely with manufacturers around the globe to help them bring safer products to market faster for more than 117 years," said Keith Williams, UL's chief executive. "Today we live in a more interconnected and interdependent world than ever before.  With supply chain complexity growing and global trade increasing at unprecedented rates, understanding and navigating the Product Mindset is essential."

Key insights from the study include:

  • Geography and culture play the largest role in shaping perceptions about products.
  • Consumers are aware of an increasingly complex, global supply chain and have a growing interest in the traceability of products and product parts.
  • Manufacturers in emerging markets rate themselves as being ahead of the curve regarding both product and operational sustainability more than manufacturers in developed markets.
  • Few manufacturers appear to make the environment a top-tier issue when compared with safety and performance.
  • Product safety and performance are the top two considerations that impact today's Product Mindset for both consumers and manufacturers.

Specific findings include:   

  • More than 90 percent of manufacturers are confident that they are ahead of the curve in delivering safety, reliability and sustainability. In contrast, 70 percent of consumers feel manufacturers do not conduct thorough testing before launching new products.
  • Chinese manufacturers are nearly two times more likely than American manufacturers to value product innovation. American manufacturers are almost five times more likely than Chinese manufacturers to value speed to market.
  • Consumers are more interested in knowing about the origin of a product's parts/ingredients than they are with where a product is assembled. This may be why 69 percent of manufacturers agree consumers are becoming more aware and better educated about products in general.
  • Innovation emerges as the most important consideration impacting manufacturers' ability to compete in the future. However, manufacturers overestimate the significance of innovation to consumers.
  • Fifty-six percent of consumers believe where fresh and processed food is assembled or manufactured will become increasingly important over the next five years and 60 percent of food manufacturers believe the country of origin of fresh dairy products and meat, fish and fruits and vegetables impacts the quality of their products.
  • Seventy-five percent of consumers feel manufacturers have not taken adequate steps to ensure that environmentally friendly manufacturing procedures are followed. Only 9 percent of manufacturers stated designing sustainable products is their most important consideration impacting their ability to compete.
  • Fifty percent of manufacturers say they will increase sourcing from other countries. Of that 50 percent, 85 percent will add new countries instead of replacing existing countries from which they already source. Consumers feel product quality is 41 percent higher in developed countries vs. emerging countries.


Global quantitative research was conducted by an independent research firm during the Spring, 2011. 1,235 consumers and 1,195 manufacturers in China, Germany, India and the United States were interviewed across an array of topics related to safety, performance, innovation and sustainability.  Manufacturers were selected from the high technology, food, household chemicals and building materials sectors and were interviewed by phone.  Consumers were interviewed through an online survey.