New Grocery Industry Report Indicates Strong Sales of Animal Welfare Certified Products, Interest to Stock More

Survey also anticipates welfare certified products to increase in popularity amid widespread retailer confusion about verified and unverified claims
July 16, 2018

New York, N.Y.— Today the ASPCA® (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) released a report co-authored with Technomic, summarizing the grocery retail landscape for products that bear animal welfare-related claims. The report, entitled “Understanding Retailers’ Animal Welfare Priorities,” shows that supermarket industry decision makers are motivated to stock products with claims and certifications that indicate better animal welfare and are seeing the benefits of doing so through strong sales. However, it also revealed that supermarket decision makers largely do not understand the differences between animal welfare claims – which are unverified and often undefined – and animal welfare certifications – which are verified and backed by audits and robust standards.

“We are encouraged by the fact that retailers are responding to consumers’ demand for products that promise better animal welfare,” said Nancy Roulston, Director of Corporate Engagement, ASPCA Farm Animal Welfare Campaign. “However, this survey reveals confusion about which labels and claims are meaningful and which are empty marketing – fueling further confusion for shoppers and creating an environment ripe for ‘welfare washing.’ It is critical that retailers recognize which animal welfare claims are meaningful and relay that knowledge to their shoppers.”

Retailers are Stocking Products with Animal Welfare Statements

The report, based on the results* of a nationally representative survey and qualitative interviews with supermarket decision makers conducted by foodservice insights firm Technomic, explored retailers’ stocking practices and sales trends of animal products with welfare claims.

Key findings include:

  • The vast majority of retailers report they already stock products with one or more claims around animal welfare.
  • Between 40 and 50 percent of retailers report stocking products with verified animal welfare certifications, compared to 71 percent stocking unverified “all natural” products.
  • Over 70 percent of those that state they are already stocking products with verified animal welfare certifications report that sales from these products have increased over the past three years. This level of reported success is similar to that of more mainstream claims like “all-natural” and “organic”.
  • Over 30 percent of those surveyed are interested in stocking more products specifically describing humane treatment of animals.

Retailers Misunderstand Animal Welfare Claims and Certifications           

The report also surveyed retail decision makers on their understanding of a comprehensive list of animal welfare-related claims. Respondents indicated both how well they understood each claim and whether they felt each claim guaranteed significant benefits for farm animal welfare.

  • Only around 40 percent of respondents felt they had a “very good” understanding of any unique animal welfare claim.
  • Those surveyed considered many unverified or meaningless claims like “natural” and “hormone-free” to have strong animal welfare assurances, sometimes considering them more highly than verified welfare certification programs such as Certified Humane, Animal Welfare Approved and Global Animal Partnership (GAP).
  • For example, 95 percent of supermarket industry decision makers felt that “cage-free” was a strong animal welfare claim for chicken meat products, though cages are not used to raise chickens for meat.

“Food retailers of all types are facing challenges in adapting to a changing marketplace.  Most are working hard to meet these challenges of quickly evolving shopper behavior and mounting financial pressures. In turn, only a select group have the resources available for proactive, ongoing education around claims and certifications.  While many anticipate a strong opportunity for products with certified animal welfare claims, it is clear that the extent of that opportunity will be tied to having easy access to accurate information that will help build their understanding and that of their shoppers,” said Wade Hanson, Principal of Technomic, Inc.

*Full Report: Read the full report here.

Methodology: Data and insights captured by Technomic were developed through two separate, comprehensive approaches. A survey of 300 supermarket decision makers was conducted (with 64 percent of surveys completed by traditional supermarket executives; the remainder were split between upscale markets, organic & natural markets, and limited assortment markets) and 40 qualitative interviews were conducted by Technomic consultants with grocery executives across senior leadership, procurement, sustainability/CSR, and marketing functions. Interviews were also conducted with a smaller number of product manufacturers. All interviews covered a wide range of topics including decision criteria, demand, fresh meat requirements, certification awareness and impact, profitability measures, and future expectations. Research was national in its coverage with a representative sample.

ASPCA Farm Animal Welfare

There are now nearly 10 billion land animals raised for food in the U.S. each year, the vast majority of whom live in confinement, in facilities that do not meet their basic physical and behavioral needs. The ASPCA Farm Animal Welfare Program is committed to directing consumers, corporations and lawmakers toward solutions that will improve these vulnerable animals’ lives. For more information about which food labels provide the most meaningful animal welfare standards, visit ASPCA’s campaign “Shop With Your Heart.”