It turns out people are still watching the news — or at the very least clicking through it on Snapchat’s Discover feature. And they’re digesting it too.
That’s what a new survey from the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation's 2016 Food and Health Survey, "Food Decision 2016: The Impact of a Growing National Food Dialogue," reveals.
The data shows that people are more interested in food-related topics then they used to be, and they’re often willing to change their minds about what they think about those topics based on what they see in the media — for better and worse. It’s a trait we don’t see so much in partisan politics — for better or for worse.
The survey asked whether Americans' opinions had changed about a number of dietary components and an average of 31 percent changed their minds about at least one of them. In most cases, media headlines and articles were at or near the top of the sources that altered consumers' opinions, the IFIC says.
Specifically, “according to the survey, 44 percent read a book or article, or watched a movie or documentary, examining the food system and/or commonly held beliefs about diet,” the IFIC survey says. “About one-quarter of Americans either changed their food purchasing decisions (26 percent) or engaged with friends, family, or coworkers (23 percent) based on what they read or viewed.”
But which ingredients were the most affected?
“The media were a top source that caused a less healthful view of enriched refined grains, saturated fat, added sugars, and low-calorie sweeteners. Whole grains, protein from plant sources, and natural sugars were among the dietary components that gained a more healthful opinion from consumers based on media headlines,” IFIC says.
The main takeaway for the confectionery industry? People are forming negative views about added sugars and low-calorie sweeteners, and they are forming positive views on natural sugars based on what they read in the news.
And consumers are putting these new opinions into practice in the supermarket.
According to IFIC, “This year, 47 percent of Americans said they look at the ingredients list on foods or beverage packages when deciding what to purchase, up from 40 percent in 2015.”
As for what exactly they are looking for when reading ingredient labels, “When Americans define what makes a food healthy, it's becoming more about what isn't in a food rather than what is in it. Thirty-five percent of Americans define a ‘healthy’ food as one that does not contain (or has low levels) of certain components such as fat and sugar, the top response when asked in an open-ended question.”
There’s “sugar” again, listed right next to fat as being seen as unhealthy.
Candy is never specifically mentioned by the IFIC, but that doesn’t mean the confectionery industry can ignore these findings. Sugar has created guilt by association for confections, and these changing perspectives on food will have an impact how many sweets people eat.
In response, the industry can make more products seen as “healthy,” featuring less sugar, all-natural ingredients, and maybe even some real fruit. And they should do more to get the word out that sugar is fine in moderation. Maybe the media will even pick up on it, and consumers will change their minds.