Aussies plan to eat healthier in 2010, look closer at food labels

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 31st December 2009

The latest research conducted by independent market analyst Datamonitor has found that more than three-quarters of Australians are placing greater importance on maintaining or improving their health. A similar proportion (71%) of Australians reported that they ‘make conscious attempts to eat healthily’ either ‘all’ or ‘most of the time’.

Katrina Diamonon, Consumer Markets Analyst, noted that this mindset even applies to alcohol purchases. Indeed, more than a quarter of Australian drinkers make choices with health considerations in mind. Looking at the number of low-carb brews on offer nowadays, it is evident that not even beer is immune from rising health consciousness.

Clearly, Australians are putting in a genuine effort to make more informed choices, and in the coming year, this effort will manifest itself in a growing attentiveness to the nutrient profile and ingredient composition of foods.

As health conscious Australians show a greater interest in what goes into their food, and ultimately their bodies, the most important labels around will be those in the supermarket. Indeed, nutritional labelling has emerged to become a hot topic in food and beverage marketing, not just in Australia but globally. Nearly half (48%) of Australians report that they routinely rely on nutritional information on product packaging to help make food and drink choices, compared to a global average of 44%.

“This attentiveness puts additional pressure on food and beverage manufacturers to respond via effective product reformulation that is communicated in an engaging, believable manner,” Diamonon advised.

But what information in particular are these label-conscious Australians looking for? Growing industry and media attention surrounding niche followings such as soy-rich and gluten-free diets would suggest that this is the new craze. Yet Datamonitor found it is still the traditional ‘dietary evils’ that preoccupy Australians’ choices. Nearly half (46%) of Australian consumers deem ‘low sugar or no added sugar’ claims to exert considerable influence on their product choices, while 44% perceive the same about ‘low or reduced fat’.

“The implication is that, while newer health considerations offer considerable future potential, they are not yet mass market considerations,” Diamonon noted. “Marketers must therefore adopt tempered expectations when it comes to using the newest ‘vogue ingredients’ in health-driven product reformulation.”

Indicative of rising knowledge about the link between diet and health, salt has emerged as the ‘new villain’ in the food industry. Accordingly, a growing number of initiatives have been launched in the region to raise consumer awareness of the negative effect of salt on health.

The Australian Division of World Action on Salt & Health (AWASH), for example, launched the Drop the Salt! Campaign in a commitment to reduce salt intake in the Australian population to 6 grams a day by 2012. Expect salt content to be top-of-mind for Australian consumers in the coming year, and labeling of salt information to be a major focal point for manufacturers.

It is important to note however, that growing concern surrounding ingredient composition will be accompanied by increased skepticism over product claims. This ‘trust void’ will also characterize Australian consumer sentiment and purchase behaviour in 2010. Indeed, less than one-in-four Australians deem the general nutritional claims made by manufacturers to be trustworthy.

Going forward into 2010 and beyond, Australians will pay closer attention to product formulation, using nutritional labeling as a primary cue for assessing the health credentials of a product.

“In short, if Australians make a real effort to review the actual ingredient composition of the foods they eat, they give themselves the best chance of achieving those ever-elusive new year’s resolutions once and for all,” Diamonon concluded.