Public LabelingAccording to The New York Times, a remarkable percentage of Americans are interested in the labels on the foods they buy. The daily's telephone survey of 554 adults nationwide found that 85% “read the label closely some or all of the time.” No, that is not a typo: 85%.
Of that substantial group, 66% said that information has influenced their purchase decision. Keep in mind, however, that the 85% number includes the 56% of the total who only sometimes look at the labels.
Follow-up interviews ascertained which label items were of most interest. Apparently, consumers are concerned with only a few aspects of the food label, the Times finds. Some 25% are interested in fat content, 18% calories, 10% sugar, 9% sodium content and 8% carbohydrates. The paper admits the survey has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus four percentage points; however, a look at the startling numbers suggests that number could be even greater, if the survey itself can be believed at all.
For instance, 18% of respondents look for calorie content first when reading the label, yet none said they were dieting, begging the questions: Is this purely semantics over the term “dieting”? Were the responses truthful and, if so, exactly what is the interest in calorie content?
Of course, all of the concern over dieting and obesity may be less cause for concern, considering newly released internal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, Atlanta) documents. Originally, the study found a 33% rise in obesity-related, preventable deaths between 1990 and 2000. However, mathematical errors may have inflated the CDC study's death toll by about 80,000 fatalities—or 20% of the total deaths. Admittedly, the U.S. is far from healthy; the nation still reported a 10% growth in obesity-related, preventable deaths between 1999 and 2000.
THE IN BOX
Healthful at SIALParis played host to SIAL Paris from October 17-21, as six halls featured culinary specialties from around the world to more than 135,000 visitors. One of the more-notable trends impacting formulators globally, health-consciousness is not an issue confined to the U.S.; however, manufacturers elsewhere demonstrated a variety of approaches to the concept.
Products boasting lower fat, sugar, calories, etc., could be found in abundance, many adding a degree of functionality. In France, Benefic Groupe Glon Sanders was one of the companies offering enhanced eggs, this range boasting selenium, iodine, nutrine, phosphorous, vitamins D and A and omega-3s. The latter was particularly popular, as European manufacturers have been quick to boast omega-3 on packaging. Yogurts, eggs and oils were but a few of those proudly announcing omega-3 content.
For some consumers, however, the benefits of omega-3s are of relatively little concern and, internationally, manufacturers have made great strides for those with gluten or lactose allergies. One such product, Sojasun Cuisine from France's own Triballat-Noyal, this 100% vegetable, soya-based alternative to sour cream is rich in omega-3 and vitamins B and E. Italian shoppers, meanwhile, have a gluten-free option for crackers, breadsticks and cookies from Malgara Chiari & Forti.
Lactose concerns have been addressed in an interesting way for French consumers looking for milk. Caraibos' Vita Latte is a tropical banana drink made with “vegetable milk,” and it is rich in calcium, magnesium and vitamins A and D.
Health and wellness, while certainly a major area of interest at SIAL Paris, is just an example of the trends featured. Flavors, convenience and packaging innovations also were on display, and more on all of these trends will be seen in Prepared Foods' “Going Global” columns in the months to come and in March's New Products Annual.
In addition, SIAL Montreal will be held April 13-15, 2005, at the Palais des Congrès de Montreal.
Carb Culling Up NorthIn the first of what is promised to be an annual weight loss survey, ACNielsen Canada (Markham, Ontario) has found that 12% of Canadian households include at least one individual currently on a low-carbohydrate diet. However, the diet may be fading up north, as a slightly higher number of households (15%) reported that someone had been on the diet but had abandoned it.
Of the 12% currently cutting carbohydrates from their eating, 7% had been on a similar diet in the past and had gone off of the diet and returned to one. Perhaps even more surprising is that, of the households without any interest in avoiding carbs, a wide majority, 73%, reported no individuals had ever tried such a diet.
That is not to say that Canadians are uninterested in weight loss. Some 52% of Canadian adults said they had participated in a weight loss program in the past six months. The most popular strategy among the group was a normal diet but with smaller portions, favored by 26%, while 15% tried a low-fat approach. While many are not on a low-carb diet, in the strictest sense of the term, quite a few (26%) claim that they have reduced their carbohydrate consumption.
In general, diets were more popular among higher-income households, but a majority of respondents indicated awareness and concern about health risks from obesity, trans-fatty acids and saturated fat. That concern is impacting consumer behavior as well, with 56% reducing their consumption of fat, 47% foregoing sugar, 37% avoiding fatty acids, 34% cutting salt/sodium, and the aforementioned 26% curbing carb intake.
For more information on the survey, contact ACNielsen Canada, Kristen Ridley, 905-943-8343.