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Three in four consumers say food impacts their mental well-being, survey finds

Dive Brief:

  • Three in four consumers (74%) say their mental health and well-being is impacted by their food and beverage choices — with 51% saying stress led them to consume less healthy foods in the past six months — according to the International Food Information Council’s 2023 Food and Health Survey.
  • A majority of Gen Zers and millennials are getting food and nutrition information from social media, with six in ten consumers surveyed by IFIC reporting they have made healthier food purchasing choices because of it. However, the study found, 68% of people from all age groups said they had seen conflicting information about what foods to eat or avoid.
  • IFIC’s online survey of 1,000 adults found that six in 10 U.S. adults say they are very or somewhat stressed. Gen Zers and millennials were more likely to report stress, which other recent research has indicated.

Dive Insight:

Consumer perception of how the food they eat affects their everyday lives continues to evolve.

For years, better-for-you products have ballooned in popularity as consumers pay closer attention to nutrition labels. With their proliferation in the CPG space, consumers are often willing to pay more for food items they believe will benefit their health.

In the annual survey of 1,022 U.S. adults conducted at the beginning of April, consumers cite healthfulness of food is increasing as a purchase driver, with 62% of those surveyed listing it as important. Fifty-five percent of respondents said they always or often look at labels when shopping at grocery stores. 

IFIC found consumers most often define healthy food through its freshness, sugar, protein, nutrient and sodium content. However, 54% acknowledged that they know little to nothing about the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Energy and weight loss were listed as the most important nutrition benefits among Gen Zers, millennials and Gen Xers, while baby boomers are most focused on anti-aging.

While many companies tout their products’ nutritional benefits, some critics have questioned the industry’s efforts. In a study published last fall, the Access to Nutrition Initiative found the 11 largest food and beverage companies had not made enough progress on making food more nutritious, affordable and accessible to consumers.

While many consumers are focused on nutrition, the information they are receiving about the health and wellness attributes of food products varies. Sixty-seven percent of respondents said they trust the information they see on social media a lot or a little, with Facebook, YouTube and Instagram being the platforms on which they see nutrition content most often. But conflicting information on food products’ nutrition can lead to confusion. Roughly the same number of consumers said social media makes them doubt their food selections as those who feel it helps them make good choices.

Cost has become a significant factor in food choices, given the continued inflationary environment at grocery stores. Forty-seven percent of those surveyed said they have cut back on non-essential food and beverage products, chosen brands that are less expensive and purchased less premium food products. More than a quarter of respondents said they have made less healthy decisions due to food costs. 

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