Consumers rate the top health foods

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 14th August 2009

There is no question that demand for healthy food is growing across most developed economies and a new survey has sought to find out just what consumers perceive to be healthy.

The health and wellness boom, as it has been dubbed, has reportedly not been derailed by the global financial crisis, with opportunities still in high supply.

According to the new International Food Information Council (IFIC) FunctionalFoods/Foods for Health Consumer Trending Survey, carried out in the US, eighty-nine per cent agree that certain foods have benefits that go beyond basic nutrition, and may reduce the risk of disease or other health concerns – a significant increase from just two years ago.

“This year’s survey findings show us that (consumers) are making the connection that foods can play an important role in achieving optimal health,” said Elizabeth Rahavi, RD, and Associate Director of Wellness at IFIC. “Consumers’ awareness of many food and health relationships has reached an all-time high.”

Top Foods for Health Named By Consumers

According to the 2009 survey, the top “functional foods” named by consumers are: 1) fruits and vegetables; 2) fish, fish oil, seafood; 3) dairy (including milk and yoghurt); 4) meat and poultry; and 5) herbs/spices, among others. But beyond their interest in individual foods, the research shows that people are increasingly associating them and their components with specific health benefits such as:

* calcium and vitamin D for bone health;
* whole grains for reduced risk of heart disease;
* antioxidants for protection against free radical damage;
* probiotics for digestive and immune health; and
* omega-3 fatty acids for cognitive development, especially in children.

The survey discovered that consumers believe food can have a number of benefits including: improving heart health (85 per cent); contributing to healthy growth and development in children (83 per cent); improving physical energy or stamina (82 per cent); maintaining overall health and wellness (82 per cent); and improving bone health (82 per cent).

As such, respondents outlined a desire for functional foods – which has yet to show in the sales of most functional foods on the market.

Around two in five (43%) were “very interested” in such products and 41 per cent said they were “somewhat interested”.