Cargill: animal feed is becoming more relevant for brands

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The animal feed industry has a role to play in both feeding the world and meeting consumers’ needs, says Cargill.

The agro-giant released results from a consumer survey regarding the influence that swine diet has on consumer habits earlier this week.

The Feed4Thought survey questioned buying practices of more than 2,000 people in the US and Spain, the Minnesota-based company said. It found that when results were broken down by age group those from 18-35, often referenced as millennials, had the strongest reaction to animal diet.

About 43% of the millennials in the US said the diet a pig had influenced their purchases of pork products, said Cargill. For consumers in Spain, 65% from that age group said it was an aspect they considered.

The company has been researching consumer trends and the influence of animal production in an effort to understand the perspectives and evolve to meet them, said Patrick Duerksen, Cargill global marketing director, pork.

“It is important for us to have a pulse on consumer perceptions, and then use that insight, where appropriate, to better serve our customers and deliver what the market needs,” he added.

“This kind of insight underscores how important it is to deliver new innovations and better nutrition to a market that continues to change,” he told FeedNavigator. “The world demand for protein continues to rise, and it is our mission to find new and better ways to nourish the world. And we need to feed the world in the way consumers demand.”

Survey findings

The study asked respondents about the use of a healthy diet in swine production because of the ongoing conversation regarding where food originates, said Duerksen.

Overall, about 32% of US consumers and 60% of Spanish consumers surveyed said they considered a pig’s diet when making a purchasing decision, the company reported. But the results were strongest for the younger demographic.

Additionally, that age group had the least trust that pigs are raised on what they consider a healthy feed, the company said. In the US, 42% of millennials don’t think the diet pork is fed is healthy and 67% of Spanish millennials agreed.

“For this particular survey, we didn’t define healthy or ask about antibiotics or GMOs,” said Duerksen. “We will continue to dig into these topics in more detail so we can better understand how specifically we can best help our customers address consumer trends.”

Of the US survey respondents, 94% said they eat pork, slightly below the 98% in Spain.

In general, the results were anticipated, said Duerksen. “However, we found it very interesting to look at consumer segments and compare findings by generation – especially millennials to baby boomers –  millennials clearly have different preferences when it comes to the food they eat,” he added.

Previously, Cargill also had examined consumer thoughts on beef production and antibiotic use.

Larger trend

However, Cargill’s work on understanding consumer trends related to the composition of animal feed has not been the only response to that connection.

In recent months, several companies, like the yogurt producer Dannon, and dairy producer Clover Stornetta Farms, have started to make product statements regarding the composition of the feed used in the production of animal proteins.

Dannon’s decision, and those like it, amounts to a “slap in the face” for the animal feed industry, said Charlie Arnot, CEO of the Center for Food Integrity, at the time.

“All of a sudden now you have a consumer brand saying animal feed is relevant to our brand attributes, and we’ve never seen that before,” he said. “From my perspective that’s a huge wake-up call for the animal feed industry.”

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