March 25/New York/Cone Communications -- A new survey of American consumers provides some potentially surprising findings that indicate American food shoppers are very mindful about what they place into their shopping carts, and it is not just about price and taste.

While food commercials on television constantly bombard Americans with offerings that focus on price-point and convenience, a 2014 survey by Cone Communications found that people care about where their food comes from and how it is produced. In a poll of more than 1,000 people from a broad cross-section of the shopping public, 77% of respondents said sustainability was an important factor in deciding what to buy, while 74% said buying locally was a significant factor.

Understandably, food safety is something that 93% of shoppers consider very, or somewhat, important when making food purchasing decisions, slightly outweighing concerns over nutritional value (92%). Interestingly, though, while 74% of consumers indicated buying locally is a consideration in making decisions, fewer, at 54%, said buying organic is a consideration. Evidently shoppers are prepared to spend extra dollars to support their “buy-local” sensibilities, with 66% of those surveyed saying they would pay more, and sacrifice variety, in order to purchase locally-produced foods. The top reason provided for buying locally is that people want to support local businesses and communities, which they deem more important than the potential environmental or health benefits of doing the same.

Another of the study’s findings is that despite industry resistance to labeling genetically modified (GMO) foods, consumers want to see companies step up their level of transparency about how food is produced. Some 83% of those surveyed said they wished companies would disclose information and educate consumers about GMOs in their products -- especially as 55% of people did not know whether GMOs were good or bad for them, and 51% did not understand what GMO food is.

Though sustainability is important for more than three-quarters of American shoppers, with 81% keen to see more food options that protect the environment, when those surveyed were asked to select their top concern in making purchasing decisions, sustainability didn’t trump other priorities. Some 54% picked family satisfaction -- that is, what products their family most enjoys eating --— as the most important thing; 41% picked health and nutrition, while sustainability was selected as the top concern by only 5%.