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Nutrition vs Cost: Survey outlines consumer priorities

By Lorraine Heller , 17-Jun-2009

Over half of Americans are willing to spend more on healthier versions of food, but price remains a barrier for some, according to a new online survey.

Commissioned by the United Soybean Board and conducted by an independent research firm, the survey found that most people who do not opt for healthier food are still interested in nutrition but cannot deal with the heftier price tag.

Consumer Attitudes about Nutrition 2009 has a strong focus on the nutritional benefits of soy – presented as a “budget-friendly” health food – but it also reveals some useful general statistics about consumer shopping behavior.

The latest study, which is the 16th annual report of its kind, includes 1,009 random online surveys conducted in January 2009, selected to provide a sample representative of the US population.

Interest in nutrition?

The survey findings, released yesterday, reveal that 54 percent of Americans will spend more on healthier products. Of those that do not opt for the healthier versions, the majority (52 percent) say the obstacle is financial, suggesting that a lack of interest in nutrition is not always the case.

Some 87 percent of respondents said they were concerned about the nutritional content of the food they eat. In addition, 88 percent said they consider nutrition important when purchasing foods at the grocery store.

According to the United Soybeans Board, which backs the interests of soy producers, soyfoods could provide a “nutrient-dense”, “affordable” option for those health conscious consumers that are unable to pay the extra buck.

On questioning consumers about soy, the group found that 84 percent of respondents rate soy as healthy, a 25 percent increase compared to 12 years ago. One-third of respondents said they purchase foods specifically because they contain soy.

Functional foods market

A report published last month by Packaged Facts estimates that the US functional foods and beverages market was valued at $30.7bn last year, up 6 percent on 2007.

“This performance reflects a slow-down from the 8 per cent growth rate seen in 2007, reflecting both the increasing maturity of the market and the impact of recessionary pressures on consumer spending on ‘fancier’ and less essential food and beverage items,” wrote the report, entitled Functional Foods and Beverages in the US, 4th Edition

The compound annual growth rate between 2003 and 2008 was 8 per cent. By 2013, the US functional foods market is predicted to be worth around $43bn.

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