Conflicting information on what constitutes healthy living has fueled consumer demand for simpler, more informed approaches to food choices, according to a report by Mintel.
Consumer surveys conducted by the market researcher have revealed that people's attitude to health differs greatly, and this is naturally also reflected in the products they purchase - if any - in pursuit of a healthier lifestyle.
In fact, although eating well features heavily as a contributor to health for older Americans, younger consumers may not even consider food as important when it comes to maintaining health. Most people at this life stage look to exercise, achieving a work/life balance, and managing stress and social lives as key, said Mintel.
However, when it does come to the link between food and health, choices are further complicated by the "waxing and waning of what's hot and what's not in the nutrition world".
"Against a backdrop of rising obesity in America, consumers are increasingly skeptical about what constitutes healthful choices. From low fat to no fat, and from no carbohydrate to high protein, consumers have been subject to shifting science, conflicting research and public health policy debate," writes Mintel in Attitudes Towards Healthy Living - US - September 2007.
Inadvertently, these very public nutrition and health debates have fueled demand for simpler, more informed approaches to food choice and life itself. The rise in demand for local and organic foods, coupled with an increase in new product launches with ethical claims (since 2002), is evidence that consumers are redefining how they look at diet, and subsequently health, it said.
According to the Trust For America's Health, obesity rates in 2006 actually rose in 31 states. In 22 states, the rates rose for the second consecutive year, in spite of significant publicity about the problem and subsequent public attention to the issue. As a result, some 85 percent of Americans now believe that obesity is an epidemic.
Yet Mintel's research showed that many Americans still do not show much interest in matters related to health.
Whites were found to show the least interest, with just over half of people surveyed saying that they place "significant value" on their health. In contrast, more than two thirds of blacks felt the same.
Overall, Mintel survey respondents identified sleep, diet and exercise as factors that contribute most to health.
A growing population of baby boomers has led to the creation of a new trend: the search for longevity and vitality. This, said, Mintel, has given rise to a host of new products aimed at meeting this goal.
"Anti-aging products are now no longer restricted to anti-wrinkle creams for women. Men are the new target in anti-aging everything, and everything is now a delivery medium for anti-aging and vitality. From juice and teas to age-specific supplements, Boomers are the hot new health target."
In addition, sales of heart and bone health supplements are booming, resulting in the success of the specialty supplement category within the supplement business.
Looking into the future, Mintel identifies cosmaceuticals as a "noteworthy" trend to shape health ideals.
A growing number of companies, it said, are producing food-based products for a beauty target. These products focus on issues relevant to an aging population, such as vitality, skincare, mental agility and general wellbeing.