Ingredient Transparency: Canada
Sources published from 2017 to present provide inconsistent information. It appears, however, that the key takeaway is that even though both consumer awareness of ingredient transparency and consumer demand for ingredient transparency have increased, a considerable percentage of consumers are still confused or overwhelmed about ingredients and product claims and buy products that are not good for them, their families, and the environment. Insights specific to Canadian consumers are limited, so they were supplemented with insights specific to American consumers.
Consumer Awareness of Ingredient Transparency
- A report published by Environmental Defence Canada in 2017 shows that at the time, most Canadian consumers did not actively research cleaning or personal care product ingredients and were not that aware of the level of ingredient transparency that was available to them.
- One Canadian consumer shared with the organization that the only thing that had ever stopped him or her from buying a cleaning or personal care product was if the media had reported that the product is harmful to human health.
- Another Canadian consumer wrongly assumed that every cleaning or personal care product on the market had been tested rigorously by a regulatory agency.
- Yet another Canadian consumer shared that he or she has faith that a household product that is already on the market and is sold at well-known stores is not bad for him or her.
- Focus group discussions showed that at the time, only a small percentage of Canadian consumers read ingredient lists completely or looked out for certain harmful ingredients.
- Most Canadian consumers at the time wrongly believed that "Canadian laws mandated the rigorous testing of personal care and cleaning products." They were more concerned about brand recognition, brand reputation, price, and scent than long-term health impacts.
- Canadian laws at the time also did not provide for the full disclosure of ingredients in household cleaning products and of unintentional ingredients and fragrance ingredients in personal care products.
- Recent data to directly compare this 2017 Canadian data with could not be located in the public domain. However, NSF International, a product testing and certification organization, polled American consumers in 2019 and found that of American consumers, 34% scarcely or never verify product claims, and 46% have bought a product even though they were not sure of the veracity of the product claim.
- Based on these figures, it seems that despite concerns about the impact of product ingredients on their health, a considerable percentage of American consumers still do not prioritize ingredient transparency over other purchase considerations.
- It seems that even though they are aware of the benefits of ingredient transparency, some American consumers would still not actively research and choose products or brands that offer full transparency.
Consumer Demand for Ingredient Transparency
- Environmental Defence Canada's 2017 report shows that while ingredient transparency was not top of mind for Canadians at the time, its usefulness and importance were apparent to Canadians, and it was something that Canadians desire.
- Canadians at the time acknowledged how useful it would be to see readily identifiable information or warning labels on the product indicating that harmful chemicals are present and may bring about serious health risks.
- They admitted that such information or labels would make them think twice about purchasing a cleaning or personal care product.
- To provide an added perspective, according to market research firm Mintel, in 2017, 79% of American consumers who clean their homes agreed that it is essential for cleaning products to completely list their ingredients. Among millennials, this percentage was 83%.
- Of American consumers who clean their homes, 94% would be loyal to a cleaning brand that provides full transparency, 81% would consider trying the entire portfolio of a cleaning brand that provides full transparency, and 39% would switch to a cleaning brand that provides more transparency.
- Recent data to directly compare this 2017 data with could not be located in the public domain. An article published by Progressive Grocer in late 2018 only shows that according to Brian Sansoni, the vice president for communications and outreach at the Washington-based American Cleaning Institute, "product transparency is the new normal."
Consumer Perceptions of Ingredient Transparency
- Based on Environmental Defence Canada's 2017 report, there were consumer concerns at the time about how adequate, clear, and consistent information on cleaning and personal care products was.
- There were concerns that the messaging was confusing and that it was hard to ascertain how safe a product is.
- A focus group participant commented that the writing on the back of cleaning and personal care products is so tiny that it is "almost like they don't want you to know."
- Another focus group participant shared that "they never tell you exactly what's in there.. it doesn't say exactly what's inside."
- In 2017, Clean Production Action, a Massachusetts-based organization, reported that according to SC Johnson, a leading manufacturer of cleaning products, "more and more, consumers want to know what's in the products they bring into their homes."
- Recent data to directly compare this 2017 Canadian data with could not be located in the public domain. NSF International's 2019 survey only indicates that of American consumers, the percentage who find product claims valuable is almost equal to the percentage who find product claims confusing, meaningless, or overwhelming.
Surveys and interviews of and articles and reports on consumers of household products such as personal care products and cleaning products were examined. Data specific to Canadian consumers is limited, so we decided to supplement it with the next best data available, i.e., data specific to American consumers. Since both Canada and the United States are in the same geographic region and are both developed countries, we assume that the behavior of Canadian consumers is not that different from the behavior of American consumers. Sources published from 2017 to present were examined to determine how consumer awareness, demand, and perceptions of ingredient transparency have changed over time.