IFIC’s survey consisted of 1,002 Americans aged 18-20 and was conducted by Greenwald & Associates using ResearchNow’s consumer panel. According to the study, 59 percent of those surveyed considered themselves to be in “very good” or “excellent” health. The majority of participants defined “healthy” as a lack of health problems rather than the presence of healthy habits such as eating healthy, being in good shape or being capable of exercise or physical activity.
When asked how to define a healthy food, adults over 50 were more concerned with the presence of healthy components in food, while those under 50 were looking for foods low in unhealthy components. Participants in rural areas were two times more likely to choose non-GMO foods than those in urban areas. Ingredients such as vitamin D, fiber and whole grains topped the list of ingredients perceived as healthy, while saturated fats are largely perceived to be unhealthy. Freshness, place of purchase and ingredient lists are also major factors that affect the health perception of food.
When it comes to consumer trust, two-thirds of participants claimed to have high trust in nutritional advice from a registered dietitian nutritionist, which was significantly higher than from government agencies, news articles or food companies. In addition, one in three survey takers reported that their food choices are dictated or influenced by friends and family members. However, news outlets were still the top source for information pertaining to food safety and recall information. Eight in 10 reported to finding conflicting advice about what to eat and avoid, and the majority admitted to doubting their food choices.
A disparity between the desire for a healthy life and the best way to achieve that exists in many areas, including sweeteners. Six out of 10 consumers linked added sugars to weight gain, but there is a split — 30 percent vs 32 percent — of consumers that choose sugar over low- or no-calorie sweeteners for their food and beverages. Only one in five consumers surveyed had a positive opinion of low-calorie sweeteners, with 30 percent trying to avoid sweeteners altogether.
Overall, the study’s findings showed the importance of consumers’ ability to interpret the barrage of health information coming at them when it comes to making food choices. SNAC International is offering a free webinar for its members on Thursday, June 29, with IFIC’s Alexandra Lewin-Zwedling, Ph.D., vice president, research and partnerships, and Liz Sanders, director, research and partnerships, in which they will dive deeper into the findings of the study and provide insights on how to best address consumer concerns. The webinar is $100 for non-members. To register, click here.