Embracing Naturalness in a changing world

Consumers are taking control under Covid, adding health, creativity and wellbeing to mealtimes

Andy is preparing dinner in the kitchen of a New York apartment. Normally he’d be out at basketball practice and planning to meet his friends at a bar before going on to a favorite restaurant, but things have changed under Covid.

Andy opens the door of the well-stocked refrigerator. ‘Three of us live in the apartment, and we rarely ate together before Covid. When lockdown hit we felt a bit lost, and then decided to take control and make mealtimes into an event.’

His household reflects the situation in many others. In changing times the kitchen has become the new social hub, presenting families and friends with regular opportunities to meet, eat and discover the possibilities of home cooking.

Amy sits at the kitchen table and opens her laptop. ‘It’s strange, despite all the restrictions we are eating better and getting to know each other - plus, we can invite our friends via Zoom. Every meal can be a dinner party!’

Mary enters. ‘Something smells good,’ she says.

We all have fewer opportunities to eat out, and more time to contemplate and plan our mealtimes. The ‘new normal’ has accelerated changes in attitudes as people come together and consider what is important to them, and how this is represented in their food choices.Regine Lueghausen, Vice President Global Marketing

‘Chef Andy is in the house!’

‘Of course, my cooking still needs some refinement to achieve restaurant quality. At the same time - my friends like it a lot,’ laughs Andy. ‘I used to help my Grandma out in the kitchen at home so I learned the basics. I’ve become the nominated chef because I know what tastes good and I know about ingredients. We’re stuck together so why not eat well?’

‘Amy eats a vegetarian diet and Mary consumes all vegan products. We all want to live healthily,’ says Andy. ‘I like the challenge of making meals that suit us all. Specialist diets focus on good ingredients, taking care of yourself and looking after the planet too. I consider this a minimum requirement for acting as a decent person.’

 

Andy reads the label on a jar of tomato sauce. ‘There - simple ingredients, and pretty much all-natural as far as I know. Who wants strange sounding things with their tomatoes? It only takes a bit of research to find out what’s natural and organic, to check out where it comes from and what it contains. The label on the jar has to speak to me. Simple, honest, trustworthy.

Andy is talking about naturalness. He refers to the increasingly popular idea that we should make closer connections to the natural world that surrounds us, feeds us, delights us and inspires us with its rich flavors and boundless creative potential.

Food means more than fuel to the modern consumer. Community is making a comeback, and as more of us get together to enjoy mealtimes, naturalness is becoming a key ingredient.

Amy positions the computer at the head of the table. ‘Covid makes us feel weird - it has stopped so many things. On the one hand we can see much less of our friends in person. On the other hand, we can invite people to dinner via our computers - and they have to cook and do the dishes for themselves!’

Mike appears on the screen, the first virtual guest. Mike is taking cooking lessons from Andy. ‘Every time we did a Zoom I’d join with a sandwich and have to watch these guys eating Andy’s amazing creations. So I asked him to teach me a few tricks.

‘I still eat meat,’ says Mike, as though contemplating a future decision to turn vegan. ‘It has to be organic, sustainably sourced, animal welfare guaranteed. It’s better for me, and it sounds like the minimum requirement of living a decent life - treating farmers well, avoiding cruelty, you know.’

Brenda joins the call. Her family deli started as a labor of love, serving a narrow band of customers who were looking for high quality ingredients, carefully sourced from around the world. ‘New York unites the whole world in one city, and our customers present all nationalities, as well as our friends of course.’

Young people in particular are turning to naturalness as they strive to make the most of mealtimes, combining culinary creativity with being healthy, searching for quality and minimizing their impact on the fragile world. Stefanie Hartwig, Global Marketing Engagement Manager

‘I make sure the meat I buy is all locally sourced and organic,’ adds Mike. ‘I have to pay a bit more. That feels ok with me. I’d rather have meat less often and make sure I eat the good stuff.’

Andy points to his olive oil bottle. ‘Brenda’s place is amazing - olive oil that makes you feel like you’re in Tuscany, tomatoes bursting with European flavor.’

Brenda nods. ‘When Covid hit we struggled, and then we grew our online business, started doing meal kits and deliveries and sourced locally to fill supply gaps. We also try to make our products specialist but more affordable. We get a lot more younger clients now - people who are cooking for themselves and want great tastes while sticking to their principles.’

‘I think food is becoming the whole experience, including planning, shopping, cooking and eating. Each part adds its chapter to the… story. People call us up and ask questions - we’re local, we’re real and people can connect with us and the food they buy.’

Mary joins in. ‘I always thought all food was just… food. And boy was I wrong. Dig a little deeper and you’ll feel amazed. How about trying to help a farmer to get a fair price, or choosing eggs that come from well-treated chickens, or searching out farms that treat the environment like they want it to last for more than five minutes?’

Andy signals for everyone to start. ‘Covid has taken so much away, and we’re fighting back. Starting with mealtimes. We’re getting more enjoyment, more goodness, more flavor and more… of an experience.’

The physical, psychological and environmental benefits of naturalness are becoming clearer in households across the world.

Mary waves a fork. ‘When you make connections between nature and what you put on your plate, you take a big step towards doing your bit for sustainability. We’re young and we want to have good things for our lifetime and for our kids and beyond.’

‘If change tastes like this then I am definitely going for it,’ says Amy. ‘It has become much easier to find good food and ingredients in stores, even in the supermarkets. I had already started to look closer at labels. Now, even when you’re shopping online you can search out better products. The selection has definitely improved.’

Consumers tend to reject ingredients with scientific-sounding names because they do not perceive them as natural. In order for the consumer to understand and trust the content of the label, concrete and transparent information is needed.Sandra Corneau, Global Director Sensory & Consumer Insights

Understanding global attitudes towards naturalness


The changes in Andy’s New York kitchen are being seen across the world as people find themselves cooking their own food and learning about the crucial role of the ingredients that go into the dishes they create.

Shopping has also become a more important part of life, and making the right choices is increasingly important to people as they understand flavors, tastes and the implications of the products they choose.

At Symrise, we are continually working to embrace naturalness and help consumers like Andy to access the tastes he and his friends love. We have summarized our part in this global movement in the Symrise code of nature®

Research carried out by Symrise shows that a change in attitudes towards naturalness is a global phenomenon.

The importance of naturalness differs from country to country. In general it has become evident that the explicit use of the word “natural” exerts a great influence on the perception and acceptance of a product or its ingredients.

Asia Pacific

“No additives” and “contains real ingredients” (e.g. fruit extracts or natural fruit juice) rank among the top three attributes driving naturalness perception.

Europe

Consumers are very interested in food ingredients, and will thoroughly read lists of ingredients (even long ones) as long as they can understand them.
In general, consumers attach importance to ingredients they know and mostly reject unfamiliar ingredients.

USA

Consumers primarily associate naturalness with the terms “fresh,” “natural,” “local ingredients” and “free of additives and preservatives.”

Latin America

Consumers understand naturalness as describing a product that is real and pure without additives.
A high proportion of consumers in Mexico, Argentina, Brazil and Colombia are willing to pay more for products that embrace true naturalness.

As Andy sits back and watches his friends clear up the kitchen, he reflects on another fun night in.

‘I’m looking forward to the time when we can go to restaurants again,’ he says. ‘At the same time, the big changes in how we see eating at home are here to stay. Also, I know I’ll be paying a lot more attention to where my restaurant food comes from.’

Mary agrees. ‘I think shops and restaurants are going to have to show much more transparency about how they source their food, how they prepare it and the effect it is having on the environment.’

Andy puts some leftovers in the fridge. ‘And of course, the taste. It has to taste good. That’s what chefs like me are looking for, and so are my friends!’

Simplicity is key, and is evident at every stage of the supply chain, from sourcing ingredients from trusted suppliers to helping in the development of the best natural tastes and delivering the best products, clearly labeled and ready to use. That’s what the Symrise code of nature® is all about.Walter Ribeiro, Global Senior Vice President Supply Chain & Procurement