More Americans choosing foods, beverages based on healthfulness

May 20, 2014

The number of American consumers who consider healthfulness when purchasing their food and beverages has shown a significant uptick in the past two years, according to the findings of the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation’s 2014 Food and Health Survey.

American consumers’ perceptions and behaviors regarding the healthfulness of their diets and level of physical activity are among the survey’s most encouraging findings. While taste and price consistently have been the top two factors that impact consumers’ food and beverage purchases (90% and 73%, respectively), healthfulness in 2014 almost entirely closed the gap with price, rising from 61% of consumers in 2012 to 71% this year, a 10 percentage-point increase.

Beneath the surface, certain subpopulations saw greater relative increases than others. Consumers ages 18–34, who cite healthfulness as a driver of food and beverage purchases, increased from 55% in 2013 to 66% in 2014, significantly narrowing the gap with other age groups.

The nine-point increase among men from 56% last year to 65% this year was a significant gain, as was the increase among those who are not college graduates, 67% of whom reported that their purchasing decisions were impacted by healthfulness, up from 61% in 2013.

As in previous years, consumers report other areas where they are trying to improve the healthfulness of their diets. More than four out of five consumers (83%) report that they’ve tried to eat more fruits and vegetables either within the past year or for more than a year. Seventy-nine percent say they have cut calories by drinking water or low- and no-calorie beverages. Seventy-two percent are eating more whole grains. In addition, four in five report that they are trying either to lose weight (54%) or maintain their weight (25%).

When consumers rated their priorities in life, the importance of a healthful diet often ranked either the same as or more important than other major priorities. The percentage of consumers who said the following priorities were “about the same as” or “less important than” than a healthful diet: spending time with loved ones (48%), minimizing stress (58%), having a healthy financial situation (62%), getting enough exercise (67%), feeling fulfilled in their jobs (73%), and having an active social life (82%).

“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,” said Marianne Smith Edge, Senior Vice President for Nutrition and Food Safety at the International Food Information Council Foundation. “If perceptions translate into actions, the impact on the health and wellness of our nation could be significant and long-lasting.”

Press release