Ingredients, heritage and indulgence are three of the five key trends driving consumer decision-making when it comes to buying and consuming food, according to a new report from Ardent Mills LLC.

In its inaugural “Trend to Table” report, Ardent Mills surveyed more than 10,000 consumers over the age of 18 for their thoughts on food purchasing decisions. The goal: help food and ingredient suppliers ignite innovation.

“Being a trusted supplier-partner means approaching dynamic consumer behaviors with curiosity and intention,” said Matt Schueller, director, marketing insights and analytics at Ardent Mills. “The goal of this large survey and our Trend to Table report is to create a better understanding of these trends as well as an actionable roadmap for our customers. To move food forward, Ardent Mills will leverage this data with our customers to foster deeper, strategic partnerships to better meet consumer demand.”

The first trend identified by Ardent Mills is the idea that “ingredients matter.” Ardent Mills found that 85% of consumers say that ingredients play a role in what foods they eat and nearly 60% of consumers are willing to pay more for foods that use whole and/or less-processed ingredients.

“Today’s consumers are taking a closer look at every item on the ingredient list; they want specific ingredient details, and they take the time to investigate nutritional benefits, sustainable practices and food sourcing for each item on the list,” Ardent Mills said.

A second trend revolves around “heritage is hero.” As part of its survey, Ardent Mills found 51% of consumers agree food is part of their identity and 63% said their upbringing influences what they eat. In addition, 60% of consumers surveyed said they try new foods, flavors and ingredients because they want to expand their tastes. Top global cuisines identified by survey participants were Italian (70%), Mexican (70%), Chinese (62%) and Japanese (37%).

“Consumers are evolving their food identities; the focus on culinary roots and ancestral cooking practices remains strong, but they are also eager to explore new cultures through flavors and formats,” Ardent Mills said.

Trend three involves “adding with intent,” Ardent Mills said.

“Today’s consumers are searching for goodness as they intentionally choose foods that align with their dietary goals — from overall health and wellness to environmental claims, mood-boosting properties and convenience — they are adding foods that will make a difference in their overall health,” Ardent Mills said.

Ardent Mills's survey found 80% agree that seeking “good-for-you” foods is important to dietary goals and priorities. Meanwhile, 52% said grain-based foods are an affordable way to eat nutritiously, and 46% of consumers between the ages of 18 to 24 said plant-focused eating is a dietary goal.

Nutrition labels also are important, Ardent Mills said, with 84% of consumers surveyed indicating they check package information at least occasionally. The study discovered that nutritionals are the No. 1 source of information checked (76%), followed closely by ingredients (75%).

The fourth trend highlighted in the survey is the “desire to do good,” Ardent Mills said. Fifty-three percent of consumers said their food choices can have a positive impact on the planet. Meanwhile, 49% claim foods grown using sustainable or regenerative agriculture practices are important to their dietary goals and priorities, and 41% said foods with a lower carbon footprint are important to those same goals. Households with children also are prioritizing perceived “right” choices, with 48% of consumers’ households with children under 18 seeking out brands committed to reduced environmental impact, fair employee treatment and community generosity.

“Consumers want to support foods that align with their sustainability goals, but confusion surrounds sustainability and regenerative agriculture — and what they should be expected to pay for these benefits,” Ardent Mills said.

The fifth and final trend centers around indulgence. Ardent Mills said 92% of consumers said that “great tasting foods” are a key element to their dietary goals. Other findings included 68% of consumers who reported that “rewarding and treating” is a top dietary priority, and 63% of consumers who said they eat store or restaurant bought sweet baked goods a few times per month or more.

Ardent Mills said grains can play a key role in meeting the five trends as consumers love the tastes, textures and nutritional benefits they bring to foods. Its study found 72% of consumers say they believe grains positively impact the taste of food and 62% say they believe grains positively impact the texture of food. Meanwhile, 67% of consumers said flours and pulses positively impact taste, and 58% said flour positively impacts the texture of food and 57% said pulses positively impact the texture of food.

Ardent Mill's study also found 57% of consumers agree that grains play an important role in the benefit claims that grain-based foods often include on packaging.