We're very picky about the ingredients we use.

In that context, what's a synonym for "picky" with a positive connotation, that denotes that we care very much about the quality of the ingredients?

  • Selective lacks emotion.

  • Choicy is a bit over-the-top.

Drawing a blank here.

I saw the other question about "picky", but the context is not the same:
Adjective for exclusive/selective/picky with positive connotations

  • 6
    Unless implied by context, particular doesn't have the same negative connotations as picky. But to my mind it doesn't necessarily have any particularly positive associations either. Jul 5, 2015 at 12:23
  • What about the preposition used, are you committed to 'about' or flexible? Is 'in' acceptable?
    – user98990
    Jul 5, 2015 at 12:55
  • 4
    I would use exacting, in the sense (given in Merriam-Webster) of "requiring careful attention and precision." An even more apt term (except that most people probably aren't familiar with it is exigent, meaning (again per MW) "requiring or calling for much: DEMANDING." Savarin Coffee built a generation of commercials around a character known as "El Exigente—the demanding one," who wandered through the coffee plantations, selecting only the finest beans for the company's coffee.
    – Sven Yargs
    Jul 6, 2015 at 0:07
  • 1
    I do not see why "selective" is not the right word and what emotions have to do with food choices.
    – Alexey
    Jul 7, 2015 at 11:38
  • 1
    For 'choicy' you say a bit over the top, by which I guess you mean 'not actually a word'?
    – Mitch
    Jul 7, 2015 at 13:08

18 Answers 18



Having or showing good taste or judgment; discriminating.

Collins English Dictionary, as found at thefreedictionary.com

The following would work:

"We're discerning about the ingredients that we use."

However, as pointed out to me in the comments, the more common usage is:

"We're discerning in the ingredients that we use."

  • 8
    Though it is attested, "discerning about" isn't the usual phrase, which is "discerning in". "We are very discerning in our selection of ingredients." (books.google.com/ngrams/…)
    – TimR
    Jul 5, 2015 at 12:35


We are very selective in choosing our ingredients.

  1. tending to choose carefully or characterized by careful choice (Free Dictionary)
  • 1
    This works with the OP's sentence better than the others do, and is in the right register.
    – Robusto
    Jul 5, 2015 at 12:30
  • 3
    In case the OP is considering retaining "about" in his sentence: though selective *about" is on the rise, selective appears far more often with "in". "We are selective in our choice of ingredients." (books.google.com/ngrams/…)
    – TimR
    Jul 5, 2015 at 12:40
  • 3
    OP didn't want to use it though.
    – ermanen
    Jul 5, 2015 at 14:20
  • 1
    Selective is probably the least pretentious word to use from all of these examples. I believe "Particular" would also be a decent substitute.
    – Mike H.
    Jul 6, 2015 at 17:21
  • I proposed selective with fine palate to connote the food quality aspect. Jul 7, 2015 at 16:23


: liking only things that are of good quality : able to recognize the difference between things that are of good quality and those that are not

In the context of being picky about food ingredients, readers should understand this meaning and its positive connotation. However, I worry that semi-literate readers would confuse it with the word discriminatory.

  • 3
    @AndyT I've heard it in the positive sense of "possessing fine judgment or taste".
    – Silverfish
    Jul 7, 2015 at 15:17

A word in the same register as picky but without the negative connotations that picky sometimes has, is choosy.

We're very choosy about our ingredients.

  • And just the opposite is true with "choosy" and "about". "Choosy about" has long been the form, and "choosy in" is on the rise. (books.google.com/ngrams/…)
    – TimR
    Jul 5, 2015 at 12:45
  • 1
    That's almost like picky. :) Jul 5, 2015 at 14:53
  • As we say, almost, but not quite. :)
    – TimR
    Jul 5, 2015 at 21:05
  • 3
    No need to specify what you're being choosy about. Choosy moms choose Jif has been a very successful slogan and ad campaign, and has spawned numerous snowclones, even though those moms clearly aren't choosy with their children's consumption of hydrogenated oils and corn syrup.
    – choster
    Jul 6, 2015 at 2:55
  • @choster: snowclone was a new one for me.
    – TimR
    Jul 6, 2015 at 10:27

"We're very conscientious about the ingredients we use"

conscientious adjective: very careful about doing what you are supposed to do: concerned with doing something correctly. (Merriam-Webster online)

  • 3
    +1. Never heard it in the context of food before, but interesting choice.
    – Tushar Raj
    Jul 5, 2015 at 13:20
  • +1. to me, I think conscientious here would sound like they're being picky for ethical reasons though (e.g. like using fair trade bananas) rather than necessarily picky for quality. Jul 6, 2015 at 18:25
  • 1
    @anotherdave - here at EL&U we are very conscientious about providing each highly valued OP with a variety of fine answers imported daily from across the globe. Thank you for expressing your interest. ;-)
    – user98990
    Jul 6, 2015 at 19:49
  • To me, not a native English speaker, conscientious seems more about an activity than about a thing. So one can be conscientious about choosing ingredients, or conscientious about preparing the ingredients. But being conscientious about the ingredients themself seems a bit off.
    – Taemyr
    Jul 7, 2015 at 14:47
  • Well, you seem to be proficient enough, @Taemyr, to find an issue here that more broadly would apply to many of the answers - but that is because of the OP's example sentence, We're very ___ about the ingredients we use, which is a vernacular and contracted construction. More formally the sentence would be something like, "We're very conscientious about the quality of the ingredients we choose to use in our products"
    – user98990
    Jul 7, 2015 at 15:29


showing great attention to detail; very careful and precise.

They are meticulous when selecting ingredients.

  • 1
    Welcome to ELU, Izaac. This is a good answer. Perhaps you could cite the resource you used to define meticulous.
    – ScotM
    Jul 5, 2015 at 22:57

Try scrupulous on for size. It marries Bravo's selective with Eva's conscientious.

Scrupulous means very careful to do things properly and correctly (Vocabulary.com)

"We're very scrupulous about the ingredients we use"

  • 2
    Our unscrupulous competitors use melamine.
    – TimR
    Jul 5, 2015 at 13:20
  • @TimRomano: Aren't you glad scrupulous works with about :)
    – Tushar Raj
    Jul 5, 2015 at 13:22
  • 1
    Don't they make a delightful pair!
    – TimR
    Jul 5, 2015 at 13:24
  • 1
    Perhaps because of the connection to "scruples", I think scrupulous implies a moral or ethical dimension to the selectivity. Being scrupulous about ingredients might involve things like fair trade chocolate. Ultimately I think this is a narrower use than many of the more upvoted choices.
    – Kirt
    Jul 6, 2015 at 9:00
  • @Kirt: Interesting perspective. I still think it's perfect, though.
    – Tushar Raj
    Jul 6, 2015 at 9:02


ju•di•cious (dʒuˈdɪʃ əs)

adj. having, exercising, or characterized by good judgment; discreet, prudent, balanced, or wise: judicious use of one's money; a judicious selection.

May fit in OP's sentence quite well, since it connotes an active, personal selection. "Selective" can describe any mechanical filtering process; "judicious" is backed up by human expertise and taste.

  • This is a nice answer, could you back it up by citing the source you used for your definition?
    – Silverfish
    Jul 7, 2015 at 15:20

Picky (Merriam-Webster), as you know, generally has a negative connotation because it is implied that picky individuals are may be generally hard to please, and they may lack static, well-defined standards for being so selective. As Merriam-Webster puts it in their definition for fastidious (another word you might consider, though will likely want to reject), they have "capricious standards." We also often use this word to describe children. Having said that, a number of other brands have actually "owned" the word "picky," proudly admitting that they are picky about their ingredients, some even going so far as to include the word "picky" in the name of their product. It sounds like you want to set yourself apart from those brands by using a more mature-sounding word.

For me, the first word that comes to mind that fits this bill is discerning, which user Okoning as already graciously suggested; however, with a little thought, a few others came to mind.


You might consider meticulous. This shows that you are painstaking, precise, and thorough about every detail (American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language) when you select your ingredients. As person who is sometimes inappropriately meticulous myself, I may be especially partial to the word. A quick search of the web shows that some makers of food and cosmetic products are comfortable with this word and already use the exact phrase "meticulously select our ingredients."


Persnickety can conjure an air of fussiness (Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary) and snootiness (Wordnet 3.0) that, depending upon the image you want for your product, may not be a bad thing. If the word fits the rest of your description, prospective customers may be happy to hear that you care, to a fault, about what goes into your products.

I feel compelled to present a short B-list options as well:

We're zealous about the ingredients we use.

On one hand, you may want to show off your unbridled enthusiasm (Collins English Dictionary) for your ingredients. On the other hand, thanks to the word's informal meanings (The American Heritage® Roget's Thesaurus), this may make it sound as though, when you receive ingredients that don't meet your standards for freshness, it is company policy to smash the tail lights of the truck that delivered the offending produce.

We're methodical about the ingredients we use.

By itself, I don't think methodical has the punch you are seeking. If you augment it with "yet X," it might work for you:

We're methodical yet passionate about the ingredients we use.

or methodical yet discerning, etc. This makes it sound more like you only select an ingredient if it gets a favorable report from your lab coat-wearing, clipboard-toting experts (American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language), and is declared "finest in the land" or at least "not complete rubbish" by your monocle-and-ascot-sporting aficionado.

  • Welcome to ELU, JTL. This is a good answer. Perhaps you could cite the resources you used to define your suggested words.
    – ScotM
    Jul 5, 2015 at 22:59

Gourmand. Gluttonous but discerningly so. Not to be used in the absence of excess of gusto.

Finicky. Not always positive.

Discerning. Usually positive. (Discerning palate).

Discriminating. (For those of discriminating taste).

  • "Discriminating" is great. "Discerning" is already in another answer (currently top-voted). "Finicky" is negative. "Gourmand" isn't an adjective, to the best of my knowledge. Jul 5, 2015 at 21:59

Fastidious. It is a lovely word and an appropriate synonym for "picky".

  • 1
    It is a lovely word and is a synonym for picky, but the OP specified it should be positive. Fastidious often implies caring more than is reasonable and is not clearly positive.
    – Kirt
    Jul 6, 2015 at 8:55
  • Hi Kit and welcome to ELU! This a great suggestion, but a definition would aid in identifying "fastidious" as a suitable synonym.
    – Dog Lover
    Jul 6, 2015 at 11:54

It's a noun, but what about Connoisseur?


  1. a person who is especially competent to pass critical judgments in an art, particularly one of the fine arts, or in matters of taste: a connoisseur of modern art.

  2. a discerning judge of the best in any field: a connoisseur of horses.

Maybe something like

"When it comes to ingredients, we are quite the connoisseurs".

Rewrite according to preferred register and style, of course.


Kinda surprised no one has gone with Strict.

Another option is a synonym to the above, Rigorous.




We are very critical of the ingredients we use

It suggests a professionalism, and a lot of time and energy go into selecting ingredients.

Edit to add

The emphasis should be on critical analysis of merits. As per the definition, Expressing or involving an analysis of the merits and faults of a work of literature, music, or art: she never won the critical acclaim she sought

  • I don't think this is the right usage of that word. What I get from your example sentence is that you berate your ingredients! OTOH you could say "For us, it's critical to use the best ingredients". Jul 5, 2015 at 22:03
  • Thanks for explanation of the - 1. As per the definition, Expressing or involving an analysis of the merits and faults of a work of literature, music, or art: she never won the critical acclaim she sought
    – RemarkLima
    Jul 5, 2015 at 22:08
  • I see that definition, and I do appreciate your nice reply, but I still think that the phrase "critical of" always implies criticism of the "negative spoken or written judgment" variety. I tried a Google search of this phrase in quotes, but the results aren't very helpful -- but FWIW, in the 3 pages of results that I scrolled through, every "snippet" containing this phrase used it in this negative sense. Jul 5, 2015 at 22:19
  • 1
    Try Google for critical acclaim ;-) and if someone was critical of their own work (in this case, selection of ingredients) it would clearly imply that they're going for quality. however, I appreciate your point, and I've already up voted discerning, as it's clearly the best answer!
    – RemarkLima
    Jul 5, 2015 at 22:39
  • To me it's the word "of" that makes the difference, though I wasn't clear about that in my first comment. "Critical acclaim" is certainly a positive thing :) Jul 5, 2015 at 22:49

I can think of :

1) Meticulous taking or showing extreme care about minute details.

2) Precise exact in measuring, recording, etc.


The title of the question speaks of positive connotation and food. I suggest making the phrase therefore positive, and referring to fine palate for the notion of food. It is written:

Food is palatable if it doesn't taste bad, and those with a fine palate may frequent the more expensive restaurants.

Tying in the selective notion, I would write:

We select our ingredients using a fine palate.

  • Edited after downvote sans comment. Little help? Jul 7, 2015 at 16:21

The classic formulation is "all ingredients are carefully selected".


We whole-heartedly follow our epicurean sensibilities when selecting the ingredients we use.

  • 6
    The question asks for a synonym, which will preclude a sentence-long description.
    – deadrat
    Jul 5, 2015 at 22:25
  • 4
    Thew word epicurean would work, David. Perhaps you could cite the resource you use to define epicurean, and edit your sentence so that it resembles the OP a little more closely.
    – ScotM
    Jul 5, 2015 at 23:02

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