Consumers Want Healthier Food, But Don’t Want to Pay For It

ST. LOUIS—Consumers are concerned about the nutritional content of food, but they’re not willing to pay for healthier fare, according to new consumer research.

Findings from the 12th Annual Consumer Attitudes about Nutrition Study suggest that, while nine out of 10 consumers remain concerned about the nutritional content of food, only 64 percent are willing to pay for healthier versions of food. That figure dropped a significant eight points over the last two years (from 72 to 64 percent) after a consistently flat period averaging 72 percent over the previous five years. The study, sponsored by the United Soybean Board, reports that although they are less willing to pay more for healthier foods, 74 percent of consumers still report changing their eating habits due to nutritional or health concerns.

Also, 87 percent of consumers consider the nutrition facts label as important when deciding which foods to buy, yet 52 percent of respondents report that the nutrition label is too confusing. In a shift from last year, however, fewer consumers reported confusion with this figure dropping four points from 56 to 52 percent.

More than one-half of consumers are still confused about the role fat plays in the diet. Eighty-eight percent of consumers correctly reported saturated fats as unhealthy, but many remain unaware that monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are necessary for healthy bodily function. An increase in consumers surveyed (52 percent) correctly reported omega-3 fatty acids as a healthy part of their diet, up four points from last year. In comparing trans fatty acids to saturated fats, significantly fewer consumers incorrectly believe trans fatty acids are healthier than saturated fats (down 40 to 33 percent), while 28 percent perceive that saturated fats are healthier.

Regarding soy, 60 percent of consumers agree that consuming soy- based foods can play a role in reducing obesity while more than three-quarters of all surveyed thought soy products are healthy. And, of those who perceive soy as healthy, 26 percent seek out products that specifically contain soy. One in five consumers would order soy products in restaurants if they were available, with veggie burgers the most popular item (33 percent), followed by tofu (26 percent) and soymilk (22 percent). More than one quarter of Americans (27 percent) consume soyfoods or beverages once a week or more. Consumers who use soy products once a month or more (16 percent) do so mainly at dinner (40 percent) followed by breakfast (27 percent) and lunch (23 percent). Breakfast consumption increased the most since 2004, up three points from 24 to 27.

The survey was conducted by an independent research firm and includes 1,000 random telephone interviews. The margin of error is +/- 1.9 to 3.1 percent and has a confidence level of 95 percent.

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