CHICAGO, April 13 -- Striving to improve their health, Americans today are focusing on eating better. Health- conscious choices now rival convenience as the major factor determining what food U.S. consumers buy according to the latest issue of Food Technology and in its cover story, "The Top 10 Functional Food Trends 2004," referencing extensively numerous studies focusing on food purchase and consumption habits. Food Technology is the flagship magazine of the international not-for- profit scientific society Institute of Food Technologists.
American consumers are more discriminating about their food and their approach to health is more aggressive and sophisticated than ever before, according to the article. It cites studies revealing that late-night snacking is falling, fruit and vegetable consumption is growing, and more school lunches are being packed at home. The top 10 trends, according to Food Technology, are:
1. Eating better -- By avoiding or reducing intake of some food, or seeking food that provides more nutritional enhancements, consumer awareness of eating healthy is growing.
2. Counting carbs -- Fad or not, more adults sought out low- carb, high-protein food in 2003 than 2002.
3. Healthier kids -- Vast majority of households with children are seeking healthier foods and beverages; half of those often trade off convenience for health benefits.
4. Eating for change -- Forty-percent of consumers are altering diets to reduce cholesterol; 40 percent to reduce trans fats. Two of every three adults say they're trying to eat heart- healthy food.
5. Must-have ingredients -- Nearly half of all consumers recognize functional foods provide positive healthful benefits; consumers are looking for more information on ingredients that promote good health.
6. Fizzy, fruity and flavored -- Nearly 60 percent of consumers say they're likely to buy beverages to address better health. For the first time, Americans are expected to buy more bottled water than coffee or beer.
7. High-powered alternatives -- Energy drinks are the fastest- growing supermarket category, up 39 percent in 2003; sports drinks jumped 13 percent.
8. Restaurants set the pace -- Down-sizing super-sized menus, offering low-carb alternatives, and replacing cookies and soda with fruit and milk, restaurants stay nimble to buyers' wants.
9. Naturally gourmet -- Organic foods are not proven more healthful nor safer than their traditional counterparts, but nearly a third of all consumers want the choice to buy them.
10. International -- Globally, more than 300 million people are overweight, 130 million in the United States. The global weight-loss market is $240 billion.
Food Technology is published monthly by IFT, providing news and analysis of the development, use, quality, safety, and regulation of food sources, products, and processes. Issues are available online at: http://www.ift.org/foodtechnology
Founded in 1939, and with world headquarters in Chicago, Illinois, USA, the Institute of Food Technologists is a not-for- profit international scientific society with 28,000 members working in food science, technology and related professions in industry, academia and government. As the society for food science and technology, IFT brings sound science to the public discussion of food issues. For more on IFT, see http://www.ift.org