Consumers ready for functional foods, survey

By Clarisse Douaud

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Percent, Nutrition

More than 80 percent of Americans say they consume or are
interested in consuming functional food and beverages, according to
a survey from the International Food Information Council (IFIC)
Foundation.

As part of the IFIC Foundation's 2007 Food & Health Survey,​ respondents were asked their attitudes to overall health as well as their perception of foods and beverages with added health and wellness benefits. The findings are encouraging for marketers of functional food products, but also point to a dichotomy between the public's attitudes versus their actual health status. According to IFIC, while taste and price continue to be the biggest influence on Americans' food consumption decisions, the importance of "healthfulness" grew from 58 percent in 2006 to 65 percent in 2007. The web survey drew on the responses of 1,000 participants, weighted to US Census according to age, education and gender. Respondents indicated they were more likely to believe certain health benefits associated with products over others. However, these health benefits are also in line with existing marketing trends - be it cholesterol-reducing spreads, energy drinks or probiotic yoghurts. Rated number one was improving heart health, at 80 percent. Next, consumers were most likely to believe the health benefits of foods if they pertained to: maintaining overall health and wellness, 77 percent; improving physical energy or stamina; and improving digestive health, 76 percent. According to the survey, consumers are least likely to be consuming functional food or beverages for mental health benefits. Those who indicated they are currently consuming functional products were also the most likely to be satisfied with their health status, consider themselves to have a healthy diet, as well as be physically active. Men were also less likely than women to choose functional foods and beverages. The survey findings suggest Americans increasingly consider themselves to be healthy. This is not in line with pervasive data on the so-called obesity epidemic affecting the nation. IFIC Foundation reports the number of Americans claiming to be satisfied with their overall health status went from 55 percent in 2006, to 58 percent in 2007. Meanwhile, the combined categories of respondents stating they were "not at all" or "not very" satisfied with their health status dropped from 30 percent in 2006, to 25 percent in 2007. Nationwide statistics however show a different picture. An estimated 66 percent of adults in the US are either overweight or obese, based on results from the 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). The rate of obesity more than doubled from the previous NHANES survey - increasing from 15.0 percent (1976-1980) to 32.9 percent (2003-2004). As such, the survey findings highlight what health professional and policy makers underscore time and again - the need for increased education and awareness about nutrition and exercise. The research for the survey was conducted by Cogent Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Data was collected between February 19 and March 9, 2007 through an outgoing email survey consisting of 120 questions. IFIC Foundation is a branch of the IFIC, which is supported by the food, beverage and agricultural industries. Based in Washington DC, IFIC's aim is to provide science-based information on food and nutrition.

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