Land of Confusion: Consumer Attitudes Toward Safety, Nutrition and Health

November 5, 2012 in Career and Job Search Tips, Food & Beverage Industry Information


Uncle Sam is probably smiling right now.

According to the 2012 Food and Health Survey: Consumer Attitudes toward Food Safety, Nutrition & Health:

More than half of Americans believe it is easier to figure out their income taxes than to figure out how to have a balanced diet within calorie needs.

Obviously, we’re living in a land of confusion when it comes to understanding diet and health.

Commissioned by the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation, this web-based survey of over 1,000 Americans aged 18 to 80 revealed the following about our country’s attitudes toward food:

  • They’re trying to improve their diets, but it’s hard to separate fact from hype.  While nearly all respondents give at least a little thought to how healthful their diets are, many consumers acknowledge that changes in nutritional guidance make it hard to know what to believe.
  • They view themselves as healthy, but with room to improve.  Nine out of 10 respondents describe their health as good or better; 60 percent say their health is either excellent or very good.  Despite their beliefs, many recognize there is room to improve their diets and nearly all say they are trying to improve at least one aspect of their eating habits (87 percent try to eat more fruits and vegetables).  More than half (55 percent) say they are trying to lose weight.
  • Most don’t know their own caloric needs.  Only 71 percent of respondents would even try to guess how many calories they need to maintain their weight; of those, only 15 percent estimated correctly.
  • Americans are conscious of food safety.  More than 85 percent admit to giving some though to the safety of their foods and beverages over the past year.  78 percent are very or somewhat confident in the safety of the U.S. food supply.  Food safety factors having the largest impact on their purchasing decisions include bacteria (51 percent), “chemicals” in food (51 percent), imported food (49 percent), pesticides (47 percent), animal antibiotics (30 percent) and undeclared allergens (25 percent).
  • Taste and price continue to drive food & beverage choices.  At the end of the day, taste (87 percent) and price (73 percent) beat out healthfulness (61 percent), convenience (53 percent) and sustainability (35 percent).  While respondents profess trying to improve the healthfulness of their diets, the majority (54 percent) say they would rather just enjoy their food than worry about what’s in it.
  • Family meals are important.  Nearly nine in 10 parents believe that it’s good for their health to sit down and eat meals with their families, and two-thirds of parents worry more about the healthfulness of their children’s diets than their own.

Like filing your own taxes, food and health information can be complex and difficult to understand. These insights from the 2012 Food & Health Survey will play a vital role in helping food & beverage professionals better understand the American consumer and the challenges they face in adopting healthful, lifelong behavioral changes.

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