A new report by research firm Mintel found less than half (42%) of Americans consider their diet to be healthy, even as interest in healthy food soars.
Indeed, less than two in five (38%) consumers agree that healthy foods are worth the added expense and just 44% pay attention to serving sizes. Americans also generally appear to be largely distrusting of food brands as only 14% believe regulatory approval indicates a food is healthy and just 16% trust the health claims on food and beverage packages. What’s more, a mere one quarter (23%) of consumers agree that the U.S. 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. “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.”
Today’s health-conscious consumers are staying away from products containing high-fructose corn syrup (50%), sugar (47%), trans fat (45%) and saturated fat (43%). What’s more, over one quarter (28%) believe a food is unhealthy if it has artificial ingredients, with consumers actively avoiding products with elements described as “artificial,” such as artificial sweeteners (43%), artificial preservatives (38%) and artificial flavors (35%).
While genetically modified (GM) appears farther down on the list of ingredients consumers avoid when shopping for healthy foods (29%), consumer dislike of GM foods nearly matches their dislike for foods with artificial ingredients. More than one in five (22%) Americans say that they would not feed GM foods to people in their household. What’s more, nearly half (46%) agree that GM foods are not suitable to eat, rising to 58% 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. 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,’” continued Roberts.
Well ahead of other ingredients, consumers are interested in protein (63%), fiber (61%) and whole grains (57%) when purchasing foods they consider to be healthy. Protein is particularly of interest to more than half (54%) of iGen (ages 9-21) consumers, while consumers age 71 and older are most interested in whole grains (50%). What’s more, 32% of Americans overall agree that foods with a “natural” claim are good for their health and one third (33%) plan to buy more vegetarian/plant-based food products in the next year (through June 2017).
When making food purchase decisions, more than one quarter (27%) of consumers say that health concerns influence their choice of food and nearly as many (23%) indicate that they are more likely to buy food with a health claim on the package than food without. Looking at American families, Mintel research reveals that fathers are more likely to purchase food with a health claim (30%), as compared to 23% 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.