According to a recent report, consumers are trying to make healthy food choices, and are considering media representations of food issues more and more.
For its 2016 Food & Health Survey, the International Food Information Council Foundation surveyed more than 1,000 Americans to get their views on health, diet, food production, and related issues. Here are some of the results.
Sustainability and healthfulness are increasingly important
Respondents said the following factors most impact their food purchasing decisions:
- Taste (84%)
- Price (71%)
- Healthfulness (64%)
- Convenience (52%)
- Sustainability (41%)
Of these, sustainability and healthfulness saw the most significant upward trend compared to last year’s results. Taste and price also rose slightly, while convenience remained flat.
Consumers are focusing on health
A majority of respondents reported changing their diets in an effort to be healthier. Some of the most popular strategies are:
- Eating more fruits and vegetables
- Making “small changes” to achieve a healthier diet
- Drinking water or low- or no-calorie beverages
- Cutting back on foods that are higher in added sugars
- Eating more foods with whole grains
- Consuming smaller portions
Labeling impacts decision-making
Almost half of consumers look at nutrition and ingredient information when making a purchasing decision.
When asked what packaging information they use to help choose products, respondents said they consider:
- Expiration date (71%)
- Nutrition facts panel (49%)
- Ingredients list (47%)
- Brand name (45%)
- Cooking instructions / preparation time (37%)
“Healthy” and “natural,” as defined by consumers
As demand rises for healthy and natural foods, the survey sought to find out more about what those terms mean to consumers.
When asked an open-ended question about what makes a food “healthy,” the top response was that it doesn’t contain—or has low levels of—certain components like sugar and fat.
Further, respondents said a “healthy eating style” entails things like:
- The right mix of different foods
- Limited or no artificial ingredients or preservatives
- Moderation / portion size
- Inclusion of certain foods perceived as healthy
Respondents associated “natural” foods with:
- Having no additives or preservatives
- Having ingredients that come straight from nature and whole foods
- Having no artificial ingredients or flavors
Media has a significant impact on consumer choice
Recently, we’ve seen more books, articles, movies, and documentaries about food. It’s no surprise that these sources are affecting the choices consumers make.
- Last year, 44% of respondents read or saw something that examines the food system or commonly-held beliefs about diet.
- Of those respondents, more than half changed their food purchasing decisions.
- Also, more than half engaged others in conversation about the issue.
Few consumers trust food manufacturers when it comes to safety and diet information
When asked which sources they trust for information about food safety and diet, respondents said they most trust:
- Registered dieticians / nutritionists
- Personal healthcare professionals
- U.S. government agencies
Only 10% of respondents said they trust food manufacturers for food safety information, and just 8% trust them for information about what types of food to eat.
For more detailed information, download the full report.