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Survey finds expense, taste top reasons for less healthy eating

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 08-Sep-2010
Last updated on 08-Sep-2010 at 12:01 GMT2010-09-08T12:01:26Z

Expense is the top reason given by North Americans for not eating as healthily as they intend, along with unwillingness to sacrifice taste, according to a new survey from The Nielsen Company.

The market research organization conducted a global survey on attitudes to healthy eating, taking in responses from 27,000 consumers across 55 markets. Globally, consumers gave diverse reasons for not eating healthily all the time, but the general trend was that most people have good intentions when it comes to eating a healthy diet.

On a global level, the primarily reason respondents gave for not eating as healthily as they would like was a lack of time (35 percent), followed by financial concerns (33 percent).

But lack of time was not such a major factor for North Americans, Nielsen found.

It said: “Higher cost deterred North American consumers from healthy food choices, with an 11 percent higher score on this factor than the global average.”

And taste was another driving factor in North America, where 45 percent of respondents said they would opt for “tasty, non-healthy treats” instead of healthier options that they perceived to be less tasty. North Americans – along with Europeans – were most likely to hold the belief that healthy foods do not taste as good as unhealthy foods.

In the United States, front-of-pack health claims including low in fat, high in fiber or those indicating the presence of vitamins, gluten or caffeine, for example, are big business. Products carrying such claims have a market dollar value ranging from $46.6 billion for foods that make fat claims to a low of $56.6 million for foods that carry plant sterol claims, according to Nielsen figures.

Nielsen noted that although internet-based surveys can give survey results on a large scale with global reach, they are limited by the fact that they can only access those parts of the population that have internet access, rather than entire populations.

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