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Health and wellness are currently considered one of the biggest trends driving the food and beverage industry. But are the products actually healthy?

According to new data from consumer research firm Attest, consumers aren’t so sure. The study revealed large gaps in consumers’ understanding of nutrition labeling as well as what food and beverage companies can do to more clearly communicate health and wellness messages.

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  • 46% of the survey respondents worry that wellness products aren’t actually healthy
  • 41% are concerned that the health benefits of the ingredients aren’t scientifically proven
  • 32% are concerned that the amount of active ingredients is too small to make a difference, while 27% worry that the ingredients could in fact harm their health

The severity of the confusion was further illustrated when the respondents were unable to determine the relative health values of snack bars. Attest showed the participants six varieties of snack bars and asked which was the healthiest. Only 9% successfully identified the healthiest product (as determined by the Nutri-Score system). A larger percentage (13%) said the least healthy product was the healthiest. Attest noted that health-related messaging such as “whole grains,” “naturally flavored,” and “100 calories” led consumers to make incorrect choices.

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Jeremy King, CEO and Founder of Attest, commented: “The Attest research is a call to action for the food and beverage industry to simplify how it sells its products. This data shows that identifying real, healthy products appears to be a serious difficulty for American shoppers, as packaging messages simply aren’t accessible enough for consumers. With six in ten consumers actively looking to buy health food and beverage products, addressing this issue will be of significant benefit to the industry.”

Other key findings:

  • 60% of consumers look for food and beverage products to support their overall health
  • Protein is the wellness ingredient with the most appeal (65%)
  • Soups and smoothies (37%) are the products consumers would most like to be fortified with ingredients to boost health
  • To increase their trust in these products, consumers want clear nutrition labeling on the front of products (51%)