Americans question 'healthy diet'

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Unhealthy eating
Less than half of Americans consider their diets healthy.

CHICAGO — Less than 42% of Americans consider their diets healthy, according to new research from Mintel. In addition, less than 38% agree healthy foods are worth the added expense, and only 14% believe regulatory approval constitutes a healthy product. Moreover, 16% of consumers trust health claims on packaging, and 23% believe 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,” said Billy Roberts, senior food and drink analyst at Mintel. “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. 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.”

Fifty per cent of health-conscious consumers avoid high-fructose corn syrup, 47% stay away from sugar, 45% steer clear of trans fat, and 43% avoid saturated fat, according to the research. Artificial ingredients such as artificial sweeteners (43%), artificial preservatives (38%) and artificial flavors (35%) also are on the healthy consumer’s list of ingredients to avoid.

Products with no high fructose corn syrup
Fifty per cent of health-conscious consumers say they avoid high-fructose corn syrup.

Genetically modified foods, while not as prevalent as others, still make the list of attributes that healthy consumers dislike. More than one in five (22%) of Americans said they would not feed genetically modified foods to family or guests in their home, while nearly half (46%) agreed these 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 G.M.O. labeling of late, even as consumers are much more likely to avoid artificial ingredients than G.M.O.s,” Mr. Roberts said. “Arguments indicating genetically modified foods as a means of combating global hunger are failing to sway consumers as anti-G.M. campaigns have highlighted the risk of genetic modification on surrounding crops and attempted to capitalize on a general fear of ‘frankenfood.’”

American consumers are interested in protein (63%), fiber (61%) and whole grains (57%) when purchasing foods they consider to be healthy. More than half (54%) of consumers between ages 9-21 show a particular interest in protein, while 50% of those age 71 and older are most interested in whole grains, and 32% of American consumers 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 through June 2017.

High protein meal
When purchasing healthful foods, 63% of Americans are interested in protein.

 When making food purchase decisions, more than one quarter (27%) of consumers said health concerns influence their choice, and 23% indicated they are more likely to buy food with a health claim on the package. The research revealed 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,” Mr. Roberts said. 
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