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UL Global Study Reveals Food Safety is Top of Mind for Manufacturers and Consumers

February 7, 2012

The "Product Mindset" Explores Consumer and Manufacturer Perceptions of the Food Industry


NORTHBROOK, IL, February 6, 2012 - In a new global study from UL (Underwriters Laboratories), a world leader in advancing safety, food manufacturers identified product safety as a top business priority, but the majority of consumers believe food manufacturers can do even better to earn their confidence. The new study, "Navigating the Product Mindset," explores the connections and contradictions between perceptions of consumers and food 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. In addition to the study, UL has created industry-specific reports for High Tech, Household Chemicals, Food and Building Materials.

"Food manufacturers understand that product safety is imperative to the success of their business, but a significant opportunity remains to better demonstrate and communicate their commitment to boost consumer confidence," said Hank Lambert, general manager of UL's Global Food and Water Businesses. "This research demonstrates the importance of moving existing food safety management to the next level." 

Other key insights from the study include:

  • Food manufacturers express confidence in their performance related to product safety, innovation, sustainability and reliability, but consumers feel food manufacturers can do a better job testing food products and fresh foods especially.
  • Consumers' primary safety concerns for food products relate to contracting foodborne illness, exposure to unsafe chemical additives and unsanitary conditions.
  • Food manufacturers agree that consumers are becoming more empowered. They value positive consumer claims on product quality and safety more than government endorsements.
  • Even though manufacturers say it is their job to communicate product safety information to consumers, the majority of consumers find it difficult to locate that information.
  • Manufacturers are more likely to hold the manufacturers that assemble the final product accountable for safety, but consumers feel it is more important to know the country of origin for each of the individual ingredients that constitute a food product rather than where the finished product is assembled.

Specific findings include:

  • With new government regulations and heightened consumer awareness of food safety, 92 percent of food manufacturers agree product safety is becoming more important.
  • Only 2 percent of food manufacturers feel their company is behind the curve in product safety, yet 70 percent of consumers do not think fresh food manufacturers conduct thorough testing before introducing new products to the market.
  • Over three-quarters of consumers surveyed feel that processed food manufacturers are not making better products today than five years ago.
  • Even with manufacturers' focus on product safety, 76 percent of consumers find it difficult to locate product safety information about fresh food products.
  • 50 percent of food manufacturers agree that a direct relationship exists between product quality and country of origin and 50 percent of consumers across all geographies surveyed said they are always or usually aware of the country of origin for food products.

UL will exhibit during the Consumer Goods Forum, Global Food Safety Conference, in Orlando, FL February 15 - February 17, 2012 to provide global food manufacturers with information on UL's food safety service offerings.


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. The survey looked at over 900 different fresh and processed food categories.