CHICAGO- New research from Mintel shows less than 42 percent of Americans consider their diets healthy. In addition, less than 38 percent agree that healthy foods are worth the added expense and only 14 percent believe regulatory approval constitutes a healthy product. This is reinforced by 16 percent trusting health claims on packaging and 23 percent believing the US Dietary Guidelines are good for them.

“Despite the fact that we’re seeing such a widespread and growing interest in healthy foods, relatively few Americans believe their diet is healthy. With consumers largely wary of even regulator-approved health food options, marketing healthy foods to skeptical consumers requires far more than merely an on-pack promise,” said Billy Roberts, senior food and drink analyst at Mintel in a statement. “The key to attracting these consumers is convincing them that products actually deliver on the healthy attributes they promise and that they are truly good for consumers and their families.”

Fifty percent of health-conscious consumers avoid high-fructose corn syrup, 47 percent stay away from sugar, 45 percent steer clear of trans fat and 43 percent avoid saturated fat, according to the research. Artificial ingredients such as artificial sweeteners (43 percent), artificial preservatives (38 percent) and artificial flavors (35 percent) are also on the healthy-consumer’s list for things to actively avoid.

Genetically modified (GM) foods, while not as prevalent as others, still make the list of attributes that healthy-consumers dislike. More than one in five (22 percent) of Americans say they would not feed GM foods to family or guests in their home, while nearly half (46 percent) agree that GM foods are not suitable to eat, rising to 58 percent of consumers with a household income under $50,000.

“Media coverage has focused on the debate surrounding GMO labeling of late, even as consumers are much more likely to avoid artificial ingredients than GMOs,” Roberts added. “Arguments indicating genetically modified foods as a means of combating global hunger are failing to sway consumers as anti-GM campaigns have highlighted the risk of genetic modification on surrounding crops and attempted to capitalize on a general fear of ‘frankenfood.’”
American consumers are interested in protein (63 percent), fiber (61 percent) and whole grains (57 percent) when purchasing foods they consider to be healthy. More than half (54 percent) of consumers between the ages of nine and 21 show a particular interest in protein, while 50 percent of those age 71 and older are most interested in whole grains, and 32 percent of American consumers overall agree that foods with a “natural” claim are good for their health and one-third (33 percent) plan to buy more vegetarian/plant-based food products through June 2017.
When making food purchase decisions, more than one quarter (27 percent) of consumers say that health concerns influence their choice and 23 percent indicate that they are more likely to buy food with a health claim on the package than food without. The research reveals that fathers are more likely to purchase food with a health claim (30 percent), as compared to 23 percent of mothers.

“While many consumers are avoiding certain ingredients when purchasing better-for-you foods, Americans are seeking out foods with added health attributes, namely protein, fiber and whole grains, indicating an opportunity for foods with added health attributes to target consumers with health claims on-pack,” concluded Roberts.