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Consumers are choosing more healthy packaged foods

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By Jenni Spinner+

15-May-2014
Last updated the 20-May-2014 at 08:50 GMT

An increasing number of shoppers consider the healthfulness of packaged foods and beverages when making purchases. Photo: MeadWestvaco
An increasing number of shoppers consider the healthfulness of packaged foods and beverages when making purchases. Photo: MeadWestvaco

The number of US shoppers considering health benefits when filling their carts with food and beverages has jumped in the past two years.

The healthfulness of food and beverage products is increasingly important, according to the International Food Informational Council (IFIC) 2014 Food and Health Survey.

Marianne Smith Edge, senior vice president for nutrition and food safety at the IFIC oundation, told FoodProductionDaily the increase in healthful food and beverage purchase could be a positive indicator.

While people’s attitudes about healthfulness in their food and beverage purchases and consumption alone don’t necessarily mean we are a healthier country today than we were a year or two ago, it could signal that we are moving in the right direction,” she said. “If perceptions translate into actions, the impact on the health and wellness of our nation could be significant and long-lasting.”

Healthy choices

The two factors consumers indicate is most important in their purchases traditionally are taste (90%) and price (73%). However, healthfulness was close behind; 71% of survey respondents chose that attribute, a 10-point increase from just two years ago.

A consumer’s age reportedly makes a difference in his or her decision to purchase healthful packaged food options. Consumers aged 18-34 saw a significant increase in just one year, from 55% in 2013 to 66% in 2014. The number of men listing healthfulness as important also increased (from 56% to 65%), and non-college graduates jumped from 61% to 66% in one year.

Further, while most Americans believe in the safety and security of the nation’s food supply, that confidence is dwindling. In 2014, 66% of consumers said they were at least somewhat confident in the food supply; in 2012, the figure stood at 78%.

Emotional response

In addition to purchasing behavior, the survey gauged emotional responses to news and national dialogue about food-related issues. Less than one in four respondents indicated they had had emotional conversations about food in the past six months; only half reported having conversations about food of any sort, despite high-profile discussions about obesity, trans fats, and other issues.

While it is a classic example of the most sensational and entertaining reports getting attention, our data show the vast majority of consumers are not swayed by the rhetoric,” said David B. Schmidt, president and CEO of the IFIC Foundation. “Most consumers are making health a conscious decision and trust those experts and organizations with the most authoritative training and expertise.”

The survey was conducted March 26 to April 7, 2014. Respondents were 1,005 Americans aged 18 to 80, with a range of ages, education levels, races, and geographical locations.

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