Is “Artisan” Just Another Meaningless Buzzword?

April 08, 2016

Our consumer panel reveals that perceptions of the artisan label are all over the map! What are the lessons learned here for shoppers and for food manufacturers?

There’s artisan cheese, artisan coffee, artisan jam…and on and on. It’s one of the latest and often seen buzz words in the food world right now. The problem is that it has no official definition. In the same way we’ve seen the “natural” food claim come into question, with no standard, the term can be misleading for consumers. 

Where do we go to dig deeper into who shoppers are responding to trends? Our SupermarketGuru consumer panel! This time we asked them only one question, “When you see the word “artisan” on a food label, what does it mean to you?” Participants were able to choose all that applied. Here’s what we found in the results.

The number one answer (63%) was “the ingredients are high quality.” Forty-seven percent believe “it involves a recipe or process of creating that has been handed down through generations,” 40% said it means “the product is made all in one place by the same people,” and thirty-two percent said it means “ingredients are handpicked.”  

Twenty-seven percent say the label means “it tastes great,” 24% feel like it represents that “the makers use all local ingredients,” and 18% think it means “the company is privately owned.”

In the bottom three of all answers, 13% believe “it is healthier than comparable types of food,” 12% think “it is a family business,” and eight percent think it means the product is organic.  

Just to show how all over the map shoppers’ interpretations of what makes a food product worthy of being called artisanal, 36% wrote in their own answer. Here are some of those submissions. 

  • It’s gourmet.
  • A traditional make method. High touch, no cutting corners. Usually smaller batches that are not automated.
  • It is made by hand, minimally processed.
  • I believe it used to mean more than it does now. Everyone is trying to get on the bandwagon.
  • It contains no GMO ingredients.
  • Fancy, not ordinary.
  • It is reminiscent of being handmade, even if it's a packaged item.
  • This is a abused term, overused and inappropriately used by large producers. The true meaning is has been lost.
  • It is the recipe with local influence and often with personal touch
  • Premium luxury product for a treat and also it's going to be more expensive!

In conclusion, the lessons here are shoppers be careful not be misled by label claims that haven’t been officially defined, and becoming more knowledgeable about label claims will empower you as a shopper! And for food manufacturers, beware of using this term if you’re product isn’t going to meet the expectation. You’ll lose shoppers if they feel like you are trying to pull the wool over their eyes.