Understanding perceptions of processed food among UK consumers


EUFIC – European Food Information Council, Brussels, Belgium

There is uncertainty among consumers around food processing. How do people view processed foods? What do they know about processing techniques? Would their perceptions change after being exposed to more information? The European Food Information Council (EUFIC) has engaged 71 UK consumers to understand their views and attitudes towards processed foods, and to see if and how their opinion would change when informed about food processing.

What comes to our mind when we think of processed foods? Researchers found that some people define processing through the technique used (e.g., canning), while others believe that altering the original state of foodstuff in any way makes it processed. Consumers also think that adding ingredients such as additives, defines food as processed. “Convenience” also comes to mind, with “ready meals”, “microwave meals”, or “take-aways” frequently referred to. Some people say they deliberately limit or completely avoid processed foodstuff, choosing more “natural” and “fresh” alternatives, or cooking “from scratch”.

But do people really know what food processing involves and why it is used? As a matter of fact, n ...