Choices Limit Healthy Eating

August 31, 2010

A conscious decision to treat oneself is the leading reason global consumers do not eat healthily, according to new data from The Nielsen Company.

Treating, Time Leading Barriers to Healthy Eating
Four in 10 (41%) global consumers say they don’t always eat healthily because they like to treat themselves, with 30% slightly agreeing and 11% strongly agreeing. The next-most-popular barrier to healthy eating was lack of time. Thirty-five percent of consumers agreed with this statement, 27% slightly and 8% strongly.

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Cost closely trailed time as a barrier, with 33% of respondents agreeing that they lack time to eat healthily. Twenty-three percent agreed slightly and 10% agreed strongly.

Another 25% agreed they don’t always eat healthily because healthy food doesn’t taste as good (19% slightly, 6% strongly). While there is likely overlap with respondents who don’t always eat healthily because they like to treat themselves, this percentage shows that many consumers choose not to eat healthily because it is simply less appealing or fun.

Latin Americans were the most likely to cite time constraints as an issue, 5% more than the global norm. Higher cost deterred North American consumers from healthy food choices, with an 11% higher score on this factor than the global average.

Ready availability of, and confusion about healthy food was an issue for about one-third of consumers in the regions of Middle East/Africa/Pakistan and Asia Pacific. North Americans were the most likely to avoid healthy foods because of a belief that they don’t taste as good. Europeans and North Americans both scored highest at 44% and 45% respectively for opting for tasty, non-healthy treats in place of more healthy choices.

Asia Pacific Has Most Organic Shoppers
Organic foods, which feature production methods that reject synthetic materials and compounds, are popular with 40% of survey respondents, particularly shoppers in Asia Pacific where 47% said they buy organic, Latin America at 45% and Middle East/Africa/Pakistan at 43%. North America falls well below the global average, with only 24% of consumers saying they actively buy organic. Thirty-five percent of Europeans say they actively buy organic products.

Health Top Reason to Buy Organic
People prefer organics for a host of reasons, including the belief that they are healthier (76% of global organic shoppers gave this reason), pesticide-free (53%), more nutritious (51%), environmentally friendly (49%), taste better (45%), not genetically modified (37%), supportive of small farmers and rural communities (35%), the right thing to do ethically (31%), and a vote against modern farming methods (10%).

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Local Products Top Environmental Concern for Food Shoppers
Exploring the environmental attributes consumers consider when grocery shopping, the study determined that the most important criteria with global shoppers was the availability of locally made products (33%), stores that participate in fair trade practices (28%) and a selection of organic products (25%).

Other green attributes on the grocery selection radar screen included green or ethical products (24%), products in recycled packaging (23%), farmers market products (21%), short shipping distances (18%), items with little or no packaging (17%), and products not tested on animals (14%).

Healthy Consumers are Healthy Spenders
Health-aware consumers tend to shop more frequently and spend slightly more than consumers who are less concerned about health, according to Nielsen analysis of National Marketing Institute (NMI) data.

Preferred channels for health-conscious consumer segments include grocery stores, which offer the widest variety of fresh and organic products; drug stores, where they can find medications as well as dietary supplements, and warehouse club stores known for outstanding value but limited offerings on the food and drug fronts.

Health-oriented shoppers are least likely to patronize supercenters, mass merchandisers, convenience/gas stores and dollar stores.

Grocery spending patterns reflect an emphasis on formats that have made a name based on their produce and fresh departments, tasty samples, customer service and client education ranging from proprietary health labeling systems to in-store seminars and demonstrations.

About the data: The Nielsen Company conducted an online poll of more than 27,000 consumers in 55 markets from Asia Pacific, Europe, Middle East/Africa (consisting of countries from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates, Egypt and South Africa), North America and Latin America. Data is supplemented with the measurement of organic consumption by market.

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