IFIC 2021 Food & Health Survey – Highlights and Implications
By Shari Steinbach, MS RDN, RDBA Contributing Editor
This year marked the 16th time the International Food Information Council (IFIC) has conducted their food and health survey questioning American consumers to understand their perceptions, beliefs, and behaviors around food and food purchasing decisions. Some of the key survey highlights are summarized below along with ideas for educational activation.
- COVID-19 impact. Behaviors such as cooking at home more than usual, washing produce more and snacking more are decreasing. Online shopping significantly increased and most likely will remain high. In addition, many Americans are helping their communities with hunger relief.
- Healthy food and healthy eating patterns. The definition of “healthy food” took a more positive tone this year with 27% saying it is defined by the presence of healthful components (like fruits, veggies, and nutrients). Portion control, a variety of foods and avoiding processed foods are ways that Americans define a “healthy eating pattern”.
- Food and beverage purchase drivers. The priority of purchase drivers remains largely stable: taste is #1, followed by price, healthfulness, convenience and environmental sustainability. Four in 10 Americans say it is important to them that a food/beverage include only a few ingredients, but the type of ingredients is more impactful with many concerned about the healthfulness and safety of “chemical-sounding names”. When it comes to Nutrition Facts labels, Total Sugars has the biggest influence on purchases.
- Environmental and social sustainability. A large group of Americans believe their own individual choices about food/beverage purchases can impact the environment but many want a better understanding of the impact their choices have. Meat and poultry products and bottled beverages are seen as having the greatest potential negative impact on the environment.
- Eating patterns and diets. About 4 in 10 say they followed a diet or specific eating pattern. Interestingly, calorie counting, has taken the lead as most common. Weight loss/management, energy/less fatigue, digestive health and heart health are the most common benefits sought.
- Food safety. More than 50% of Americans consider foodborne illness from food a top food safety concern with many considering chemicals found in food and carcinogens in food a top issue.
With these current attitudes and behaviors around food choices, retail dietitians can create meaningful educational programming for shoppers. Consider these ideas:
- In the coming summer months, offer menus, recipes and cooking tips for those consumers who are now planning larger gatherings with family and friends, like dinner parties, cookouts and holiday meals. Include tips for lighter side dishes, lean grilling recipes and recipes with local summer produce. Food safety tips will also be welcome.
- Consider engaging ways to get simple healthful post pandemic eating tips to shoppers. Include tips for adding more fruits and veggies to meals and substitutions for reducing calories. Use in store signage, RD pick programs, social media and intercom messaging.
- Conduct a virtual label reading class - highlighting on how to decipher an ingredient list, address “chemical-sounding” ingredients and provide guidance on the sugar declarations.
- Continue to tell positive stories about the environmentally friendly actions your stores are taking. Partner with vendors to promote the corporate commitments many major food companies are making regarding sustainable sourcing and packaging.
- Tie consumers into your community food insecurity programs and promote all efforts to decrease hunger in your local markets and beyond.
Source: International Food Information Council. 2021 Food & Health Survey. 19 May 2021. https://foodinsight.org/2021-foodhealth-survey/