The findings show that despite the food industry's ongoing trend to make products 'healthier,' there is still room for improvement, leaving manufacturers with "a clear opportunity" to make it easier for people to select healthy options.
Conducted by international ingredients giant Tate & Lyle, the study was a part of a move by the company to enhance its product development and boost sales by providing "key insights" into consumer needs.
Based on 532 interviews with American adults, the findings reveal that around three quarters of consumers believe both fat and sugar intake need to be reduced in order to achieve a healthy diet.
But while consumers claim to check labels for fat and sugar content, they are not willing to compromise on taste, "so food and beverage manufacturers must look for reformulation options that taste good," said the company.
The study also revealed that 90 percent of parents said they try to ensure their children have a nutritious, balanced diet, but that they find it difficult to find healthy products with "child-appeal."
Additionally, almost half of the women interviewed admitted to following a "personal diet" that they had created themselves, presenting manufacturers with the opportunity to offer a wide range of products that could be incorporated into these diets.
Consumers interviewed also agreed that they wanted additional health benefits in their products, such as vitamins, minerals, calcium and omega-3.
"American consumers have a good understanding of what constitutes 'healthy eating' yet there is a disconnect between what they know and believe and what they actually do in terms of eating," said Harvey Chimoff, Tate & Lyle's marketing director.
"This suggests consumers focus on taste and convenience over health and that there are significant opportunities for food and beverage manufacturers to make more healthful versions of their products. While these new options must be convenient and readily available for consumers across purchase locations, they must also be as tasty as regular products," he added.
The government's new dietary guidelines, published at the start of this year, have resulted in increased consumer awareness of what constitutes a healthy diet. Americans are also becoming more aware of obesity and other diet-related diseases, through a growing number of awareness campaigns and media coverage.
However, with old habits hard to break and consumer unwillingness to compromise on product taste, the real responsibility and challenge lies in the hands of food manufacturers.