Fat remains major baddie for healthy eaters, says Datamonitor

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Percent Nutrition Us

Reducing fat intake continues to be the main priority of consumers
looking to improve their diets, according to a new report from
market analyst Datamonitor.

A survey of US and European consumers also found that people still attach considerable importance to moderating sugar, salt and carbohydrate consumption.

The new report, Moderation and Avoidance Trends in Food and Drinks: Implications for 'Better-For-You' Offerings, seeks to highlight changing attitudes towards dieting as a result of global obesity concerns.

The survey of over 5000 consumers found that people have started taking greater self-responsibility towards maintaining their health, but despite an understanding of the importance of consuming more nutrient-rich foods and drinks, people still focus on moderating the 'bad' nutrients from their diets.

Saturated fats came top of the list of products to avoid, with 74 percent of consumers saying they are trying to reduce their intake of these.

Some 68 percent of respondents cited reducing sugar intake as important, while 64 percent said controlling calories was important.

Reducing the intake of salt was a priority for 61 percent of consumers, followed by processed foods (59 percent) and carbohydrates (53 percent).

The report also found that consumer awareness about different types of 'good' and 'bad' fat is increasing, especially in the US where there have been considerable efforts to raise awareness about trans fats.

"This awareness is not always reflected by detailed knowledge, suggesting that manufacturers and retailers - with the support of industry institutions - need to continue consumer education initiatives," said market analyst and author of the study Michael Hughes.

Datamonitor said the discussions about fat will also begin to take a more positive slant, with increasing attention expected to be placed on good fats, in line with the trend towards 'positive nutrition'.

"Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids will become an increasingly desirable product attribute in many instances," said Hughes.

Consumers are also checking food and drink labels with greater regularity, said Datamonitor.

"With increased emphasis on the nutritional value of food and drink, it is only natural that consumers will devote greater time to studying labels and packaging of food and drink to assess the content of the product.

No wonder the debate over food labeling continues to escalate," said Hughes.

The report found that more than half of US and European shoppers checked nutritional labels more regularly to make food and drink choices in 2006.

UK consumers topped the list, with 60 percent of respondents reporting that they checked labels.

US (58 percent), Spanish (57 percent) and Italian (54 percent) consumers followed close behind.

The least likely to check labels were Germans, with only 37 percent saying they examine the nutritional content of products.

According to Hughes, nutritional labels are generally seen as a "positive and even necessary piece of information.

Shoppers will become even more engaged with their food and drink making decisions based on greater levels of detail," he said.

The report, released today, also outlines the problem that the pursuit of a healthy diet is being hindered by a lack of awareness of actual nutrition intake.

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