Consumers eating healthfully, but see room for improvement

Consumers are making stronger correlations than ever between their health and the foods they consume, according to findings from Florida-based research group HealthFocus International (HFI). ?Most shoppers around the world relate what they eat to their health,? said Linda Gilbert, HFI president. ?How often they base their behaviour on those considerations varies.?

In the Philippines, Thailand and India, 99 per cent of consumers said they choose foods and beverages for health reasons at least sometimes. In other countries such as Australia, China, Italy, Malaysia, the US and Japan, more than 90 per cent choose foods for health reasons at least some of the time. In Denmark, by contrast, just 65 per cent of consumers make purchases based on health reasons.

?Even at that low of 65 per cent, you?ve got two out of three people saying they think about nutrition and health at least sometimes,? Gilbert said.

Worldwide, most consumers feel they are already eating fairly healthfully. ?However, very few of them are satisfied with their eating habits,? Gilbert said. ?As marketers, the lesson is that they want credit for what they?re already doing right.?

Instead of sending a message that consumers? diets are unhealthy, she said a better tactic is to suggest ways of improvement. ?There is also a focus in many parts of the world on avoiding dietary negatives,? Gilbert noted. ?Even in some markets where we?ve seen advancement of positive nutrition, we?re seeing dietary negatives come back on the radar, particularly around salt and sugar, and chemical ingredients and preservatives.?

European consumers place more emphasis on avoiding the negatives, while consumers in the US, Asia, Latin America and Australia are more likely to focus on positive nutrition.

Aside from typical health concerns like diabetes, heart disease, fatigue, stress, obesity and cancer, Gilbert observed growing interest in boosting immunity. HFI found 75 per cent of US shoppers wanted to learn more about foods that boost the immune system, with even higher percentages in China, Central Asia, Latin America and Oceania.

Functional foods will continue to grow in popularity.

?If we look at Europe, for example, and parts of Asia, there?s been more integration of dosage and more prescriptive use-type products, whereas that?s still much more of a novelty here in the US,? Gilbert said.

Most successful are functional ingredients linked in consumers? minds to foods known to be wholesome, such as vitamin C and citrus fruits, calcium and dairy products, lutein and leafy green vegetables, and omega-3 fatty acids and fish.

The rise of the ?look good to feel good? culture would see cosmetics companies moving into the foods area as highlighted by Nestle?s purchase of L?Oreal, Unilever?s acquisition of Ponds, and the joint venture between Coca-Cola and Shiseido. ?Cosmetics companies know how to romance science better than anybody,? Gilbert said. ?We need to connect with consumers more strongly at the emotional level. The science and rationality is probably less motivation.?

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