Almost two thirds of American adults consider themselves healthy eaters, and almost half say they try to follow some type of health-conscious diet, incorporating 'healthy' foods into their daily meals and snacks, says a new report.
The study, by market researcher Harris Interactive, was based on an online poll conducted last month of 1,040 adults.
The answers submitted revealed that the age and income of consumers had a significant impact on their choice of diet. 75 percent of respondents aged over 55 considered themselves to be healthy eaters, compared to 47 percent of those aged 18 to 34. And as income rose, so did attention to diet; out of those earning under $35,000, 55 percent said they followed a healthy diet, whereas the number rose to 74 percent when income was over $75,000.
Dinner was the meal that most respondents tried to keep healthy, followed shortly by breakfast. A healthy lunch also remained a priority for many, although only around 15 percent of adults said they tried to keep their snacking healthy.
However, age again played a role in the types of 'healthy' meals consumed. Almost three quarters of adults over 55 said they had a healthy breakfast, with almost half also saying they consumed a healthy lunch at home. In comparison, dinner was the healthiest meal for three quarters of 35 to 44 year-olds. This age group was also more likely to opt for healthier snacks.
"Imagine a continuum with indulgent eating at one end and healthy eating at the other," said Anne Aldrich, senior vice president of the Consumer Packaged Goods Research Practice at Harris Interactive. "Consumers with varied lifestyles, age and health conditions touch the continuum at different points throughout the day in different ways: some choose meals and snacks that may be very healthy, while others may not."
"Many consumer packaged goods companies recognize this continuum and try to provide products that serve their varying eating needs and preferences."
The survey also revealed that many consumers were turning to organic food for healthy options.
According to the Organic Trade Association's 2004 Manufacturers' Survey, the organic foods industry reached $10.8 billion in 2003 and has grown at an average rate of 19.5 percent per year since 1997.
Harris Interactive now says that half of all US adults claim to buy organic foods, with the majority citing health benefits as the primary reason for purchasing organic. And again, the older the consumer, the more likely they were to opt organic.
"Growth in the organic foods industry over the last decade is certainly impressive. While produce tends to be consumers' main pathway into this category, many are now taking advantage of the wide selection of organic foods found in supermarkets and natural food stores," said Aldrich.
"As this industry (which has traditionally been considered an alternative eating style) moves toward becoming more mainstream, there is considerable room for consumer package goods companies to educate consumers about the health benefits of organic foods."