How do people determine the healthfulness of the foods and beverages they purchase? The latest IFIC survey, “Understanding ‘Healthy’ and the Impact of Nutrition Labeling on Food Decisions,” examines how Americans approach building a healthy diet, including the use, interpretation, and impact of information currently found on food packaging, such as the Nutrition Facts label—as well as some new information that might appear in the near future, such as the FDA’s proposed “healthy” symbol.
- More than six in ten Americans found it easy to determine whether a food or beverage is healthy.
- Roughly half of Americans said that choosing healthy foods and beverages is “very” or “extremely” important to them.
- Nearly half said that nutrition labels, statements, and/or claims on the front of food packaging are helpful when determining the healthfulness of foods and beverages.
- More than half said they would be more likely to purchase a product with an FDA “healthy” symbol or label.
Many Americans prioritize making healthy choices. Nearly nine in ten (86%) respondents agreed that choosing healthy foods and beverages is at least “somewhat” important to them. Moreover, three in four (73%) reported that at least half the foods and beverages they purchase each week are considered healthy. When diving into the demographics, we found that those earning over $80,000 a year, those under age 45, and those with college degrees were more likely to say that choosing healthy foods and beverages is “extremely important” to them; these groups were also more likely to say that all their weekly food and beverage purchases would be described as healthy.
In contrast, those earning less than $40,000 a year and those without college degrees were more likely to say that choosing healthy foods and beverages is “somewhat important” to them and that none of their weekly purchases would be described as healthy. The connection between income and purchasing decisions was also evident in this survey—among those who said they do not buy any or only buy some healthy foods and beverages, 60% said they would be encouraged to buy more of them if they were more affordable.
Nutrition labels, statements, and/or claims on the front of product packaging are influential to shoppers. When consumers were asked to describe the impact of front-of-package labeling on their decision to buy specific foods and beverages, nearly half (48%) said that package labeling had an impact (rated 4–5 out of 5, with 5 meaning “significant impact”). Additionally, when asked to describe how helpful front-of-package labeling is when determining the healthfulness of foods and beverages, a similar percentage said this was helpful (46% rated 4–5 out of 5, with 5 meaning “very helpful”). More specifically, those earning over $80,000 a year, African-American people, and those with college degrees were more likely to say that nutrition-related information found on the front of food packaging has a significant impact on their purchasing decision and/or is very helpful when determining the healthfulness of products.
Many Americans say that an FDA “healthy” symbol or label on a food product would be impactful. When consumers were asked how helpful the FDA’s proposed “healthy” symbol or label would be if they were looking to purchase a healthy food or beverage, eight in ten (79%) said they would find such a symbol to be at least somewhat helpful. The survey results also showed that such a symbol or label could also be influential in driving purchasing behavior, as half of respondents (53%) said they would be more inclined to buy a product if they saw that it had an FDA “healthy” symbol or label on it. Furthermore, the same percentage (53%) said that if they saw that a product they had purchased before now had an FDA “healthy” symbol or label on it, they would view that product as at least somewhat healthier.
Despite these majority opinions on the proposed “healthy” symbol, it’s worth noting that a sizable portion of Americans feel ambivalent about an FDA “healthy” symbol or label. Nearly two in five (38%) said they would be “no more or less likely to buy” a product if they saw that a food or beverage had an FDA “healthy” symbol, and the same percentage (38%) said that if they saw a previously purchased product that now had an FDA “healthy symbol,” they would perceive that product to be no more or less healthful than it was before.
Survey results were derived from online interviews of 1,000 adults conducted from March 9th to March 14th, 2023, by Lincoln Park Strategies. They were weighted to ensure proportional representation of the population, with a margin of error of ±3.1 points at the 95% confidence level.