Beyond basic nutrition

Getting the message out about the attributes beyond basic nutrition can be confusing for consumers. It is notable that positive marketing and connectioning the attribute of the food and specific health benefit seems to be working, according to the fifth national survey of 1,000 consumers, conducted April 10-24, 2007 and commissioned by the Washington, D.C.-based International Food Information Council (IFIC).  Heart health, better bones and cholesterol counts are on the minds of consumers as they push their carts through the grocery aisles. Not only do they believe that foods can provide benefits beyond basic nutrition, but familiarity with these foods is at an all-time high with 92 percent of respondents able to name a food and its health benefit (calcium for bone health). According to the survey, the top ten "functional foods" or foods with health benefits beyond basic nutrition named top-of-mind were: fruits and vegetables; fish, fish oil, seafood; milk and other dairy products; whole grains, including oats, oat bran, and oatmeal; fiber; green tea; meat; water; certain herbs and spices; and nuts. Consistent with previous surveys, consumers overwhelmingly believe food and nutrition play the greatest role in maintaining or improving health (75 percent) and certain foods have health benefits that go beyond basic nutrition and may reduce the risk of some diseases (85 percent). More than half (53 percent) of respondents cited heart and circulatory conditions (heart disease, blood pressure, cholesterol and stroke) as their top health concern. Weight was mentioned by 33 percent, followed by cancer (24 percent) and diabetes (17 percent).  Concern with "nutrition/diet" increased in 2007 to 16 percent, compared to seven percent in 2005. The top five "diet and health relationships" named by consumers include: calcium for bone health (89 percent); fiber to maintain a healthy digestive system (86 percent); vitamin D for bone health (81 percent); omega-3 fatty acids to reduce risk of heart disease (76 percent); and fiber for reduced risk of heart disease (74 percent). Overall, consumers believe in benefits offered by foods and beverages, including improving heart health (80 percent), maintaining overall health and wellness (77 percent), improving physical energy or stamina (76 percent), improving digestive health (76 percent), improving immune system function (71 percent), providing higher levels of satiety (70 percent), and reducing the risk of getting specific diseases (65 percent), among others. "The majority of Americans are interested in learning more about food and health relationships, and in consuming components, such as antioxidants, whole grains, fiber, probiotics, omega-3 fatty acids, soy, among others for their health benefits," says Wendy Reinhardt Kapsak, M.S., R.D., and director of health and nutrition for IFIC. "That's a good thing. The next step is motivating consumers to fit these foods into their diet so that they improve their health and sustain it for a lifetime."  Survey Results