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2018 Food and Health Survey

The following is the background and conclusion of the 2018 Food & Health Survey which is compiled by the International Food Information Council Foundation annually. 

Executive Summary

This year’s 2018 Food and Health Survey seeks to understand consumers’ perceptions and behaviors around food and food purchasing decisions.

The findings from this year’s online survey of 1,009 Americans ages 18 to 80 focuses on:

  • The link between food and desired health outcomes 
  • How consumer diets compare to recommendations
  • The prevalence and motivation behind certain eating patterns 
  • Information sources and trust
  • Food and beverage purchase drivers 
  • The influence of food values and views on food safety 
  • Food insecurity and barriers to healthy eating 
  • In-person vs. online shopping 
  • Findings are presented for all respondents.

Additional insights are provided based on how findings vary by different types of demographic groups such as age, race, gender and income.

Key Findings

This year, some of the more compelling findings of the Food and Health Survey include: 

  • Consumer confusion remains entrenched: Last year, the study found consumer confusion to be a prevalent issue. That finding is confirmed again in 2018, with 80% who come across conflicting information about food and nutrition and 59% of those who say that conflicting information makes them doubt their choices. This significant consumer segment also experiences heightened stress while shopping. 
  • Context can influence the consumer’s judgment of healthfulness, even when the nutritional facts are the same: Despite being given two products to consider with identical Nutrition Facts Panels, consumers are swayed by the presence of GMOs, a longer ingredients list, sustainable production, freshness and a sweeter taste. 
  • Familiarity is a core purchase driver: While taste and price still reign supreme as influential factors, familiarity (a new addition to the 2018 survey) actually comes in a close third. The impact of familiarity of product even outweighs healthfulness. 
  • Importance of sustainability on the rise: 6 in 10 consumers say it is important to them that the food they purchase or consume is produced in a sustainable way, an increase from 50% who said the same in 2017. In particular, reducing pesticide use and ensuring an affordable food supply appear to be the issues driving this increased interest in the topic. 
  • Preference for no artificial ingredients and willing to pay for it: Despite the importance of familiarity, 7 in 10 consumers would be willing to give up a familiar favorite product for one that did not contain artificial ingredients. Of those who would, 4 in 10 would be willing to pay 50% more and 1 in 5 would pay 100% more. That said, there are about 4 in 10 who would pay nothing more for the new product. 
  • Interestingly, trust in government agencies seems to be on the rise: Consumers put more trust in government agencies to tell them what foods to eat or avoid. In addition, consumers are more confident in purchasing meats and poultry in the wake of new FDA regulation on antibiotics than they were in 2017. 
  • Doctors are both trusted and influential sources: For those consumers who get information from their personal healthcare professional, 78% indicate making a change in their eating habits as a result of those conversations. 
  • Cost and access are key barriers to eating fruits and vegetables: On average, Americans consume less fruits/vegetables and more protein than even they think experts would recommend. The top two reasons for this: the cost of and lack of access to good quality fruits/vegetables.

To read the entire study, please visit the International Food Information Council Foundation website