Food Habits, Consumers choose healthier foods, habits
Washington, D.C. – The International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation held a webinar on May 15 to reveal their survey results conducted on American’s eating habits.
Marianne Smith Edge, senior vice president of Food Safety and Nutrition with IFIC, presented the organizations findings.
“This year is the ninth annual food and health survey that has been conducted by the IFIC Foundation,” stated Edge. “The goal of these surveys is to gain a deeper understanding of consumer perceptions, behaviors and how Americans connect food with their overall health.”
The survey was conducted online earlier this spring, with over 1,000 American participants ranging in age from 18 to 80. The results from the survey were weighted to ensure they are reflective of America’s population as seen in the 2013 current population survey.
“Consistent with previous years, we see that nine out of 10 Americans describe themselves as being either in excellent, very good or good health,” stated Edge. “Also consistent with the previous two years, we find that half of Americans have given a lot of thought to the healthfulness of the food and beverages they consume.”
She continues, “Those who give the most thought to their food and beverage choices are usually women, individuals with college educations or above and those who have lower to normal body mass indexes (BMI).”
Edge noted that healthfulness has always been regarded by those ages 65 and above, women and those with college educations, but now a new trend in the millennial population has begun to appear.
“The millennial group has taken a significant increase about healthfulness when usually they just made food decisions based on price and convenience,” said Edge. “We’ve also seen an increase in the healthy decision making made by men and those with less than a college education.”
Edge mentioned consumers are taking small steps to make changes to their diet, and four out of five participants said they have at least made an effort to eat more fruits and vegetables.
Other participants of the survey claimed they cut calories by drinking water, low or no calorie beverages and eating more food with whole grain and less added sugars.
When participants were asked about how they manage their weight, three out of four responded that they try to lose or maintain their weight by eating smaller portions and tracking or increasing their physical activity.
“Overall, we see that Americans generally believe healthfulness of their diet is just as important as other priorities in life,” commented Edge.
She added, “While the majority say spending time with loved ones is more important than having a healthy diet, 40 percent feel that eating a healthful diet is more important than having an active social life.”
“When we asked consumers about planning their meals we saw that three out of five Americans do spend some time planning their meals, with dinner being the most planned meal. These individuals also used a shopping list to help plan their meals on a regular basis,” reported Edge.
Nearly half of Americans sometimes use nutrition information when eating out, while only 23 percent say they don’t pay attention to nutrition information.
She added, “Also one out of four say they did not notice or see any information when they were eating out in restaurants.”
“As with all the past nine years of surveys, we asked consumers what drives their decisions when it comes to food and beverages. Not surprisingly, taste remains king, at 90 percent,” said Edge, “but the real message here is that we are seeing thoughts from consumers about making more healthy decisions about their food and beverages.”
“This year for the first time healthfulness is almost equal to price,” said Edge.
A seven percent increase was seen in one year and 15 percent increase since 2010 in the importance of healthfulness.
Edge added, “Healthfulness is now viewed as a really important decision to be made when it comes to food purchasing.”
When it comes to food safety, two-thirds of Americans report being very confident with the U.S. food supply, and two out of five Americans report giving a lot of thought towards the safety of their food and beverages.
One of the biggest concerns people had with their food was becoming sick from the food they ate, followed by chemicals in food and packaging, pesticide residues on fruits and vegetables, unfamiliar ingredients and undeclared food allergens.
“Americans trust government agencies and health professionals about information related to food safety, food ingredients and the methods for food production,” said Edge.
When consumers were asked what they really look for on food and beverage packaging, expiration dates were slightly more prevalent than the nutrition fact panel.