Could Trust In Food Save Working People’s Relationship With Food?

Trust in food could be all that busy, overworked employees need to ensure a healthy relationship with food.

In honor of Labor Day, we took a special look at the Signal Theory FoodThink data to examine the food habits and attitudes of today’s working people* – those for whom it might not be that easy to switch off from work and simply enjoy the luxury of a lazy day.

We found that the battle between work and life leaves a lot of full-time workers with a bad taste in their mouth when it comes to cooking and eating, but one thing that has remained intact is their trust in food, which might be all that they need.

So there is hope for the American worker’s relationship with food. Here are five facts (and one fantastic silver lining) about it:

1. Working Consumers Often Find Cooking Difficult

About one-third of full-time workers (32 percent) don’t enjoy cooking,1 and 42 percent consider their cooking skills to be average at best.1 Consumers with below-average cooking skills (full-time workers or otherwise) are also less likely to care about product features like gluten-free and low-calorie and when preparing a meal at home, they place more importance on convenience and cost than they do taste and nutrition.1 In short, cooking is not so much a labor of love as it is just a labor.

2. Working Consumers Prefer Shortcuts

Working people are more likely to rely on shortcuts like premade, ready-to-eat entrées and side dishes when cooking, and 31 percent say the thought of having to cook without a microwave is stressful.1 Speed and cost are the most cited reasons for their reliance on premade dishes, followed by a lack of knowledge.1


3. Working Consumers Struggle to Eat Healthily

Overworked employees are sacrificing their health for busy schedules. More than 1 in 4 (28 percent) of full-time employees admit they don’t know how to prepare a healthy meal,1 and 43 percent say they’re so busy that being active and eating healthy often get put on the back burner.1

4. Working Consumers Feel Guilty About A Lot

Forty-seven percent of full-time employees (and 60 percent of working parents) feel guilty when they don’t cook for their families1. It doesn’t stop there – more than half (53 percent) of full-time employees1 feel guilty when they don’t eat healthily, and 38 percent of working parents feel guilty taking time for themselves to exercise.1

5. Working Consumers Say Eating Out Is Just Easier

Working people are, on average, 48 percent more likely to eat out,1  and not just during the weekends. Weekday lunches and weekend dinners are the most popular (or perhaps necessary) among full-time employees. They, more than most, also agree that when it comes to eating as a family, eating out is so much easier.1


The Silver Lining – Working Consumers Put Trust In Food

Despite their often strained relationship with food, full-time employees agree that knowledge of food production is important, and they consider themselves fairly knowledgeable.1 Most important, 41 percent of them agree that the agricultural community is transparent about how food is produced1 and 38 percent agree that as a whole, food companies are transparent about how food is produced.1 This is a higher level of trust in food than the general population. So while their actions indicate that they have fallen out of love with food, their trust in the industry indicates the contrary.

They are also receptive to help – 66 percent say they appreciate it when food companies, restaurants or grocery stores try to help them make healthier choices.1 This is great news for CPG brands and retailers because these consumers look to the industry to help them make the decisions they can’t. And while the industry cannot wave a wand and gift them with a healthier work-life balance, it can work around them and tailor products for their busy lifestyles.

Enter Convenience Foods

Convenience foods have evolved significantly over the years, with brands integrating convenience as standard in almost every category of food. Today’s convenience options don’t require consumers to compromise health, quality or diet for the sake of speed and thus can be the savior of busy working people. When they don’t have the time to think about anything other than convenience, they can trust that the industry has already done it for them.

So when it comes to holidays like Labor Day, as well as encouraging consumers to enjoy their time off, consider how else you can talk to them about their relationship with food. What products can you offer to help take the pressure off decisions about food? How can you help them stay healthy and engaged in food or make cooking a little more enjoyable? And how can you use their trust to let them know “we’ve got you”?

For more insights into trust in food and changing consumer perceptions of food production download Signal Theory FoodThink’s white paper: “Evolving Trust in the Food Industry.”

 *Signal Theory FoodThink 2016 respondents who answered “full time” to: “Which of the following best describes your current employment status?”

1. Signal Theory FoodThink 2016

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