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When Less Is More: Nearly Two out of Three Global Consumers Say They Follow Specialized Diets that Omit Certain Ingredients, According to Nielsen

68% say they’re willing to pay more for foods without specific ingredients

New York, NY – Aug 30, 2016 – Around the world, consumers are increasingly opting for specialized diets that address their desire to eat organic, low-fat, low-carb, or eliminate ingredients based on food sensitivities, allergies or personal convictions. Approximately two-thirds of the respondents (64%) in Nielsen’s new Global Health and Ingredient-Sentiment Survey said they follow a diet that limits or prohibits consumption of at least some foods or ingredients; response rates in Africa/Middle East (84%) and Asia-Pacific (72%) were higher than global average. Two-thirds of global consumers (68%) said they were willing to pay more for foods without undesirable ingredients.  

“Consumers want to eat in ways that address real dietary concerns, but they can’t do it alone. They need help from food manufacturers to offer products formulated with an eye towards food sensitivities and other specialized diets, and they need help from retailers to stock shelves with a proper assortment of foods that cater to a wider variety of consumer needs,” said Andrew Mandzy, Director, Strategic Insights, Nielsen. “This is a significant opportunity for food retailers and manufacturers, but even within individual markets, health and wellness is not a one-size fits all approach. Retailers and manufacturers need to identify high-potential segments and the drivers of engagement for these consumers and, then tailor their messages and products accordingly.”

Key drivers of these eating trends include:

Food sensitivities on the rise:  More than one-third (36%) of global survey respondents say they or someone in their household have an allergy or intolerance to one or more foods. Dairy or lactose and shellfish allergies are the most common self-reported food allergies or intolerances, each cited by 12% of global respondents.

Regional dietary preferences: Dietary restrictions are higher than the average due to both cultural and religious customs in both Africa/Middle East and in Asia-Pacific. More than eight in 10 African/Middle Eastern respondents (84%) follow a special diet that limits their consumption of selected foods, with Halal being the most commonly cited diet (48%). Respondents in Asia-Pacific are also more likely than the global average to say they follow a special diet (72%) and most likely to adhere to a vegetarian diet (19% versus 14% globally).  Nielsen retail sales data suggests that many North American and European consumers are cutting back on foods that are high in fat, sugar and sodium. Half of North American respondents say they follow a special diet, followed by 44% of European respondents.

Food as medicine: Seventy percent of global respondents said they actively make dietary choices to help prevent health conditions such as obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol or hypertension. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), chronic disease such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer are expected to account for 73% of deaths globally by 2020, up from roughly 60% in 2001.

For more granular insights on Belgium, purchase the Nielsen Global Health and Ingredient Sentiment Report on the Nielsen Store.


The findings in this survey are based on respondents with online access in 63 countries (unless otherwise noted). While an online survey methodology allows for tremendous scale and global reach, it provides a perspective on the habits of only existing internet users, not total populations. In addition, survey responses are based on claimed behavior, rather than actual metered data. Cultural differences in reporting sentiment are likely factors in the outlook across countries. The reported results do not attempt to control or correct for these differences; therefore, caution should be exercised when comparing across countries and regions, particularly across regional boundaries.


Nielsen Holdings plc (NYSE: NLSN) is a global performance management company that provides a comprehensive understanding of what consumers Watch and Buy. The Company’s Watch segment provides media and advertising clients with Nielsen Total Audience measurement services across all devices where content—video, audio and text—is consumed. The Buy segment offers consumer packaged goods manufacturers and retailers the industry’s only global view of retail performance measurement. By integrating information from its Watch and Buy segments and other data sources, Nielsen provides its clients with both world-class measurement as well as analytics that help improve performance. Nielsen, an S&P 500 company, has operations in over 100 countries that cover more than 90% of the world’s population. For more information, visit

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