Stamford, CT—A new survey from Daymon Worldwide suggests that 50% of consumers are more concerned about food safety than they were five years ago, and these fears are playing out in some of their buying decisions when they go to the shelf.

The study was based off of online responses from 1,000 respondents over the age of 18, with 50% male and 50% female. Half of the survey group were parents, a distinction that played out in the results; nearly twice as many parents as non-parents reported anxiety over potential harmful ingredients and food and personal care products. In fact, 40% of those surveyed reported losing enjoyment of foods they eat due to safety and quality concerns.

The survey also showed that bacteria and pesticides are two of the most common concerns among the survey group regarding food safety both for themselves and their families. However, there was some variance between the two groups. For example, consumers were concerned about the arsenic and mercury levels in their children’s food, but zeroed in on food handling and contamination regarding themselves.

Another thing to note is increasing levels of food allergies, resulting in consumers seeking alternatives out of necessity. One in four survey takers reported having food allergies like shellfish, dairy or wheat, and one of three reported having children in their households with similar allergies.

Out of these fears, though, come opportunities, according to this survey. Many consumers reported being willing to shop at a farmers’ market over mass merchandisers if it meant that they could avoid some of these questionable ingredients. In addition, many of these same consumers are willing to pay a premium for peace of mind: two out of three consumers said that they were not willing to accept less healthy ingredients in their food to save money.

Another interesting opportunity coming out of these results for retailers regards private labeling. Only 22% of consumers reported believing that national brands were healthier than private brands. According to Janet Oak, head of global advisory and custom shopper insights at Daymon Worldwide, “This presents significant business potential for retailers ready to invest in their private brands to surprise and delight their consumers.”

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, October 2015