What’s on the mind of Iowa consumers?

Recent survey shows grocery shoppers adapt to COVID-19, remain trusting in agriculture

Guest blog by Kelly Visser, Iowa Soybean Association agricultural awareness manager

Consumer Pulse Survey Grocery Store 7481Earlier this winter, an Iowa Soybean Association survey of 350 soybean farmers found that “improving consumer trust in modern agriculture” ranks highly among issues impacting farm profitability.

Perhaps that is because just 4% of Iowans are directly involved in farming. Thus, very few have a firsthand understanding of how today’s food system operates with their best interest in mind.

To understand Iowa consumer concerns and perceptions across the farm to fork chain, the Iowa Food & Family Project (Iowa FFP) conducts an annual Consumer Pulse Survey.

Now in its ninth year, the survey gauges Iowans’ grocery shopping habits, food label influence and attitudes toward agriculture. Year-over-year findings not only give a pulse on consumer perceptions, but also help shape Iowa FFP consumer-focused programming and content development.

The late-2020 survey of Iowa grocery shoppers had 1,539 responses and 1,103 were engaged with the Iowa FFP as monthly Fresh Pickings eNewsletter subscribers. Respondents’ age groups, income levels, education levels and geographic regions closely follow the state’s population.

Flynn Wright, an advertising agency in Des Moines, conducted the survey analysis from data collected.

Key Consumer Pulse Survey Insights

COVID-19 Impacts

  • More than half of Iowa FFP subscribers and 38% of the general population indicate they were surprised by the impact COVID-19 had on the food supply chain.
  • Most shoppers cite they felt an impact on the way COVID-19 affected how they purchase, consumer and prepare their food. Only 15% reported their behavior was unchanged.

Food Purchase & Preparation

  • 82% of shoppers report purchasing their groceries in store, down from 97% in 2019.
  • 53% of Iowa FFP subscribers and 33% of the general population are preparing meals from scratch at home at least five nights a week.
  • 62% of shoppers haven’t ever purchased meat alternative products, 25% have purchased from a grocery store and 13% from a restaurant.
  • Half of those who have purchased meat-alternative products report perceived health benefits as a motivator.

Grocery Decision-Making Criteria

  • Food quality, price and nutritional value carry the strongest level of importance for grocery decision-making.
  • Dietary restrictions and fit within a diet are the least important criteria.
  • When it comes to label influence in purchase decisions, 69% of shoppers site the nutrition facts panel as “influential” and 65% rank the ingredients list as “influential.”

Words That Matter

  • Shoppers like to see words and phrases like “no high fructose corn syrup,” “all-natural,” and “farm-raised” on food labels.
  • 50% of respondents reported that “organic” and “all-natural” phrases on food labels felt misleading.

Views of Iowa Agriculture

  • 87% of shoppers are satisfied with Iowa agriculture.
  • Iowa FFP subscribers were significantly more likely than non-subscribers to be “very satisfied” with Iowa agriculture, 46% versus 39%, respectively.
  • Three-quarters of food-minded consumers give farmers an excellent or good rating for producing safe foods, contributing to the local economy and raising healthy animals with care.
  • “Excellent” and “good” ratings for farmer performance in protecting our air, soil and water has jumped from 50% to 70% over the past four years.

Views of Iowa FFP

  • More than half of shoppers reported being familiar with Iowa FFP, a 18% increase from 2016.
  • Thirteen percent reported being “very familiar” in 2020, a 11% increase from 2016.
  • When asked about the trustworthiness of Iowa FFP as a source of information, 84% of those familiar with the initiative rated it as “very” or “somewhat” trustworthy.

About the Iowa Food & Family Project

The Iowa Food & Family Project is powered by nearly 35 partners, including Latham Hi-Tech Seeds, with a goal to help Iowans become more confident about how and where their food is grown. For more information and resources for connecting with consumers, visit iowafoodandfamily.com.

Crockpot Orange Turkey

Recipe by Recipe from Katie Olthoff

  • Prep 10 minutes
  • Cook 6 hours


  • 1 (6- to 8-pound) boneless, skinless turkey breast
  • 4 cups broccoli florets
  • 2 cups seeded, chopped red, yellow or orange bell peppers
  • ¾ cup Smuckers® Sweet Orange Marmalade
  • ¾ cup Sweet Baby Ray’s® Hickory and Brown Sugar Barbecue Sauce
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • Cooked brown rice for serving


Place the turkey breast in a 6-quart slow cooker, cover, and cook on the low-heat setting for 6 to 8 hours (depending on the size of the breast) or until a meat thermometer registers 165°F. Remove the turkey from the cooker and let cool slightly on a cutting board. Pour off any liquid from the slow cooker crock.

Cut or shred the turkey into smaller pieces and return them to the slow cooker. Arrange the broccoli and peppers on top of the turkey. In a bowl stir together the marmalade, barbecue sauce and soy sauce, and pour it over the turkey and vegetables and stir to combine. Cover the slow cooker and cook on the high-heat setting for 30 minutes. Serve turkey and vegetables over brown rice.

Nutrition per serving without rice side: 512 Calories, 2g Total Fat, 211mg Cholesterol, 711mg Sodium, 32g Carbohydrate, 2g Fiber, 85g Protein