In an informal poll, swissinfo.ch Facebook users told us how they choose to define 'natural' food, and whether or not buying natural is a priority for them at the grocery store. Add your comment below to continue the conversation!
Many volunteered that they defined natural products as those that are certified organic, which in Switzerland is called “bio” and regulated by the federation of Swiss organic farmers, Bio Suisseexternal link.
However, others disagreed with the equation of organic with natural.
“Natural to me means the way Mother Nature made it, without any assistance from man. This in reality is different from organic, since many organic products are treated with biological pesticides,” commented Jane Mateski.
Many users pointed to specific additives or chemicals that they felt must be absent for a food to be considered natural, including antibiotics, pesticides, growth hormones, palm oil, and maltodextrin. Food that has not been highly processed or genetically modified was also a common definition of natural.
“If you can't read the ingredients, don't eat it,” said Tania Gross-Garcia in a Facebook message.
Others focused less on food content and more on its source.
“[Natural] means garden grown, seasonal food…it must be local! Not shipped in, or flown in when out of season!” commented Msa Samoosa Faleni.
Some consumers, like Franziska Wick, preferred to define natural based on a food’s ecological footprint. “For me these days, environmental aspects are most important: animal welfare and the least impact on the environment,” Wick noted.
While many commenters described their preference for foods they perceived as natural – consistent with the research analysis – others expressed mistrust of the word ‘natural’ when used as part of a food marketing campaign.
“In the United States, natural is a very misleading word. For example, genetically modified corn will still pass as natural since it is technically just corn,” Stella Fiona Muñoz commented. For Adriano Ramos Passarelli, a natural label is “just a misleading marketing tool to sell more expensive products.”
Livia Gaffield offered yet another perspective. “I am sceptical of the word natural because even poisons are natural,” she commented.
Finally, some consumers shared that for them, food that appears natural isn’t the only priority.
“I wish I could buy only all-natural products and they definitely taste best but, alas, price and convenience are also factors,” said Yvonne Klaatsch Totten.
As Elmaz M. Yap put it, “When I go shopping, I normally look at the labels first and then the content of my wallet second.”