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Compare your results with those of UK consumers

This article summarises the results of the EUFIC consumer survey on perceptions of processed food among UK consumers.
© EIT Food

The answers provided by the survey participants were analysed and categorised in themes. So, for example, in question 1, ‘cooking’ and ‘chopping’ were the most common answers and were categorized as ‘processing activity’. The answers are in order, so the most common answer is given first, progressing through to the least common answer at the end.

1. How would you define processed food?

When UK participants were asked to define processed foods, they chose the following related terms: ‘processing activity’ (eg cooking and chopping), ‘alteration from original state’, ‘addition of ingredients’ (eg additives and preservatives for increasing shelf-life and enhancing taste), ‘presence of packaging’ (eg canning) and ‘convenience’ (eg ready meals, microwave meals or take-away).

2. What is not processed food?

To gain a better understanding of what processed foods meant to the participants, they were asked to share what they thought the opposite was – what is NOT processed food. They answered that non-processed foods are those that are: fresh (eg fresh fruits, vegetables and freshly butchered meat), homemade, made from scratch, natural, raw, nothing added not altered, all foods are processed.

3. Why is food being processed?

The main answers to this question were: preservation and shelf life, convenience, price, sensory enhancement, variety and accessibility. Most participants noted the role of processing in making food ‘last longer’, ‘easier’ and ‘quicker’. Many participants suggested that food processing increases desirability (improved taste and appearance). Processing was also linked to reduced cost. Interestingly, health and safety benefits were mentioned only by a few.

4. What do you believe are the benefits of processed food?

The most common answers were the following: preservation, extended duration, convenience, last longer, cheaper than the fresh stuff, ready and faster to eat/ little or no preparation for the end-user, increased variety, increased safety.

5. What do you believe are the downsides of processed food?

The answers to the question, ‘What do you believe are the downsides of processed food?’ focused mainly on the high fat, sugar and salt content, associating it with the term ‘unhealthy’. Additives were also mentioned several times, making reference to the amount of them that are added to our food and on how unknown they are. Participants considered processing to result in a loss in nutritional value of foods.

6. What are your main reasons for not buying processed food?

For buying: convenience, taste, price, fresh, cooking from scratch. For not buying: reduced healthfulness, altered content, unknown content.

7. There is a lot of attention in the media about processed food. Why do you think this is?

Participants thought that the reasons behind media coverage of food products are:

  • Health concerns and health promotion. One of the participants answers was, ‘Public concern about food safety, health and provenance’.
  • Increased levels of obesity. This is a quote taken from one of the participants: ‘Due to the fact that Britain is becoming obese’.
  • Debatable processing methods and ingredients
  • Marketing
  • Need for eye-catching stories.
© EIT Food
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