Beloit, WI—Kerry has released findings from its latest research on North American consumer attitudes, behaviors, and purchasing choices with regards to food safety, sustainability, and preventing food waste.

A press release explains that while consumer purchasing is still centered on nutritional needs, the research shows that consumers are shopping more consciously, and are actively seeking out food perceived as natural. They’re also concerned about the safety of food, now that the complexity of the food supply chain has been revealed by COVID-19.

Fresh meat is cited by two-thirds of people as their top food category of concern. The food industry has an opportunity, the press release states, to increase transparency of the supply chain and provide further education on the safety measures taken along the way.

Plants aren’t escaping unquestioned, either: 49% of consumers have questions about the safety of plant-based meat alts, while 51% are concerned with plant-based dairy alts. Nor are these fears unfounded: “Food safety in this space is not yet as highly regulated [as fresh meat is],” the press release says, and due to the wide range of substrates used, plant-based meats may be susceptible to microbial spoilage from a diverse range of sources. Plant-based meat alts are generally nearly neutral in pH, high in protein, and high in moisture content, making it easy for microbes to grow, and making it imperative that appropriate microbiological control mechanisms are put in place and maintained. The value of plant-based meat is expected to reach $279 billion by 2025, the press release states, making this a useful opportunity for producers to educate consumers on what safety measures they have in place.

Related: Kerry Releases Plant-Based Product Solution Finder Post Holdings Partners with Plant-Based Companies Kerry Acquires Bio-K Plus

Kerry has created aninteractive, educational, digital toolfor food industry professionals, bringing this data to life to help users uncover key consumer food safety concerns in emerging categories and channels.

“Our proprietary consumer research confirmed that COVID-19 has accelerated an underlying trend of consumer attention to food safety,” said Neil Cracknell, President and CEO of Applied Health and Nutrition at Kerry. “Consumers want reassurance from the food industry on how the food has been sourced, how it has been produced and how it has been protected, both from a microbiological perspective and increasingly from a physical perspective. Consumers want safe food, and food they can trust. Our new interactive tool brings these research findings to life and provides an opportunity for food industry professionals to assess their overall food safety knowledge.”

Kerry offers consumer-friendly protection solutions for all food and beverage categories.