Half of Americans Read Labels Due To General Health Concerns

January 5, 2005

Chicago, IL, January 5, 2005 — According to a recent report from Mintel, in both 2003 and 2004, more than half of Americans cited general health as their primary motivation for reading nutrition labels, while a little less than 25% show concern about a specific health issue as their motivator. In other words, for every two people that read nutrition labels because of a specific health concern, five people do so for general health reasons. Clearly, end-products that offer general benefits have wider appeal than those that offer only one benefit.

” As consumers have now begun to think about food as a vehicle for achieving specific health goals, rather than just fuel for the body, the emphasis on food ingredients has shifted, ” comments David Lockwood, senior research analyst for Mintel. Ingredients that fortify (herbals, vitamins and minerals) and ingredients that reduce (low-calorie sweeteners, low-carbohydrate polyols) have become important elements of the product development process and are crucial to creating healthy and popular foods. Researching the levels and patterns of ingredient usage in new products is a unique way to understand where the food industry is heading.

Mintel’s exclusive consumer research reveals that two-thirds of respondents report making purchasing decisions based on whether the product has the right amount of fat, vitamins and minerals, sugar, and calories. About half say that they make decisions based on salt, artificial sweeteners, and carbohydrates. Women are significantly more likely to read ingredient labels than men when buying food and beverages, and the gender gap for vitamins and minerals, sugar, and herbs has widened since 2003.

A majority of consumers (45%) combine vitamin pills and eating right to ensure they are getting the necessary nutrients. An almost equal proportion rely solely on the foods that they eat. Of this second group, 29% appear to be consciously eating the right foods to get vitamins and minerals, while 14% are simply uninterested in vitamins and minerals.

The ingredient categories that most influence purchasing choices are fat, vitamins and minerals, sugar, and calories. The importance of both calories and carbohydrates has decreased, with the importance of carbs falling from fifth place to seventh. This may be signaling an end to the low carb craze from a consumer perspective. However, a closer look at the continued importance of sugar and the increased importance of artificial sweeteners suggests otherwise. Simply put, consumers may be becoming better educated about how carbohydrates work in our systems, focusing on replacing the bad carbohydrates—-sugar-—with artificial sweeteners.

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