The slow change to better nutrition

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Health care, Nutrition

Consumers are moving toward healthier products for both themselves and the environment according to a new US market survey from researcher, HealthFocus International.

Key areas of interest are brain health, heart health, stress, fatigue, bone and muscle health, skin health.

Omega-3, fiber, calcium, whole grain, and antioxidants continue to be some of the ingredients of highest interest to shoppers,”​ HealthFocus wrote. Omega-3 and probiotics were identified as, “rising stars”.

But resistance to healthy change remains for many consumers who for various reasons are not acting on the concerns they may have for their own diet, that of their family, and the welfare of the environment.

“This trend means that shoppers are asserting themselves by demanding changes to brands to incorporate more healthful ingredients, demanding scientific advances that allow things like lower fat and sugar, without sacrificing taste,”​ the report says.

“And now they are even looking at things like the way corporate entities do business with their supply chain and the location of their production, as things like fair trade and local sourcing move to the forefront.”

“However, all of this shopper knowledge and all of the requirements that they are subsequently requiring of corporations and the government does not translate to a massive change in shoppers’ own lifestyles.”

HealthFocus International observed that since its first survey of the US market in 1996 there had only been marginal change in people’s diet and lifestyle choices. As then, about 45 percent of the population are very careful about their dietary inputs.

Somewhat paradoxically, despite the marginal swing to health, the state of health in the US is declining according to the United Health Foundation’s 2008 America’s Health Ranking. This has been the case for the past four years after improving for the previous 15 years.

It noted that one of the measures of the state of health – obesity – had risen from 11.6 percent in 1990 to 26.3 percent.

The research also noted that about 95 percent of the public healthcare spending went on sick care and only five percent on prevention of illness or to public health – a situation that may in part be addressed by the Obama administration’s health care reform program.

It found that 57 percent of 50-62 years olds are suffering from one or more of the following: high cholesterol, cancer, diabetes, high glucose, high blood pressure, or some other form of cardiovascular disease. For over-65s the rate rises to 71 percent.

Healthy foods had also improved to the point where they no longer were equated with poor taste. More than half of Americans now think health food tastes better, compared with 25 percent in 1996.

“Health is now part of the equation, expected to be delivered with taste,”​ HealthFocus wrote.

Consumers are also more knowledgeable about health issues, with the rise of blogs and the internet being cited as a primary cause in this.

More generally: “Two trends that seem to counter one another, but are both growing in the same direction, are that of a growing interest in the functionality of foods and beverages and a growing interest in freshness, purity and simplification of foods.”

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