According to the nationwide survey conducted by the AI tech firm Spoon Guru, 40% of Americans are afraid of developing serious illness due to an unhealthy diet and one in five fear an “untimely death because of what they are eating.”
As such, nearly three-quarters report trying to improve their health in the past year, and yet “a staggering 88% of respondents who have been trying to lead healthier lifestyles, admit their diet is still unhealthy,” according to the results.
For example, the study found, 68% of respondents eat five or more meals containing a processed food each week, 46% eat just one piece of fruit or less per day, 30% eat only one vegetable per day at best and 42% admit to adding two or more spoons of sugar to their hot drinks daily.
Lifestyle habits also hinder efforts to eat better, according to the study, which found nearly half of Americans eat less healthy on Fridays when they socialize and 29% say they struggle to eat healthily because of hectic schedules.
Despite these hurdles, Americans are making some improvements, according to the survey, which found 23% of US consumers now eat less meat in part due to health-related illnesses associated with the food. Similarly, nearly half of consumers are eating foods that are lower in fat, sugar and salt.
However, 44% of those shoppers admit to using honey or maple syrup as an alternative to sugar – “an indication that consumers may lack the knowledge that both products contain high levels of sugar,” the survey notes.
Three ways brands & retailers can help consumers embrace a healthy diet
This disjoint perfectly illustrates the larger problem facing Americans who lack awareness about foods’ nutritional value and how to follow a balanced diet, according to Markus Stripf, co-founder and CEO of Spoon Guru. And, he adds, it represents an opportunity for brands and retailers to help themselves by helping consumers reach their health goals.
“Finding out how Americans are looking at leading a healthier lifestyle should make it clear to retailers and food manufacturers they need to help consumers make these choices,” Stripf told FoodNavigator-USA, adding that if they do they will be rewarded.
The first way he suggested brands and retailers can help consumers embrace a healthier diet by making the healthy choice the easy choice.
“Brands could and should provide clearer labels on what ingredients are in their packaged foods along with the nutritional values,” and they “could look at ways in using less preservatives, sodium and sugars in their products,” he suggested.
Similarly, retailers can remove sweets and snacks at check-out to stop consumers making impulse purchases, he said. Likewise, “for online shopping, retailers could take a lead in promoting healthy food offers on their homepage and make labeling clearer when consumers are purchasing items online.”
The second strategy Stripf recommends is for brands to “view their product portfolio form the perspective of allergies and food-restrictive diets and work with R&D teams on the possibilities of reformulation to reach a broader audience.”
This process may sound daunting, but Stripf added it “may help spot untapped opportunities for their existing brands or entire new NPD opportunities in their categories.”
The third and most important change that Stripf says brands and retailers can make to facilitate consumer adoption of healthier lifestyles is to simplify the food search and discovery process.
“It is far too difficult for consumers to identify which foods are suitable for their needs, whether they have to cater for a specific medical, ethical or religious requirement or simply want to make healthier choices,” he said.
How Spoon Guru can help
Spoon Guru already is helping retailers, such as Jet.com, do just that, Stripf said.
“Spoon Guru’s innovative technology solution helps ensure customers [of Jet.com] with specific dietary requirements can quickly and easily find suitable foods when shopping on the site” by providing them with a more tailored and relevant shopping experience, completely free of charge, he said.
For example, he said, consumers with dietary needs can stipulate other health preferences such as seeking foods that are low in sodium, low in saturated fat or something else.