Reducing sugar consumption was the leading dietary habit change, according to the survey results, in which Leatherhead Food Research collected responses from a representative sample of 1,061 Americans.
It was far ahead of, ‘I am cooking more with raw ingredients,’ at second place with 28% of all respondents agreeing, and ‘I am eating less meat’ with 22%.
Many respondents, around 43%, thought their process of changing dietary habits to be ‘fairly successful,’ followed by 20% of respondents describing it as ‘fairly unsuccessful.’
The questions reflected dietary changes respondents have made in the 12-month period between August 2015 and August 2016. “Consumer demand is notoriously complex, with attitudes and expectations shifting over time as individuals’ circumstances change,” said Chris Wells, managing director of Leatherhead Food Research.
“Our findings clearly show that health and nutrition are the top priorities for US consumers today,” he added. “There are some variations across demographics, but overall people want to improve their eating and drinking habits.”
Different changes across generations
In the top two categories, the share of Baby Boomers agreeing to a dietary habit change made up the bulk. In this instance, 56% of the 55+ age group said they were trying to eat less sugar. In comparison, it was 41% of the 25 – 34 age group.
This was also true to trying to cooking more with raw ingredients, where the Boomers made up 32% of all respondents who agreed.
However, each generation led in changing one thing or another. The 18-24 group are most likely to eat more products containing protein that is not meat (30%), mirroring the fact that it is also the age group with most respondents trying to eat less meat (26%), though this particular category was spread more evenly, indicating overall interest to move away from eating meat.
The Millennials, aged 25-34 and 35-44, ate out most frequently with 24% each. They also fared the worst in cooking more with raw ingredients, with 23% and 22% respectively agreeing to the statement.
‘I’m tempted by the products I’m trying to avoid’
The leading barriers to changing dietary habits, according to the survey results, were tied between ‘I’m tempted by the products I’m trying to avoid’ and ‘It is expensive to change my eating and/or drinking habits,’ both at 32% of all respondents.
US consumers wished that there were more readily available ‘products matching my personal dietary and nutritional needs’ (24%), ‘products manufactured ethically with minimal environmental impact’ (24%), ‘products containing key vitamins and minerals’ (27%), and ‘products made with locally-sourced ingredients’ (30%).
Top on the wishlist, with 41%, was for ‘healthy products which make me feel full for longer.’ As a result, many consumers wish they could be part of the food and beverage development process, with 35% saying they want to be ‘fairly involved.’
The most popular ways that US consumers said they would get more involved with product development included taste testing (42%), visiting a manufacturing factory to see how products are made (31%), and expressing views about the food and drink company’s products on social media (29%).
“They want the food and beverage industry to help them achieve their goals,” Wells added. “It is vital that manufacturers and retailers take note of these demands and find innovative ways to address them.”