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Pleasing the Palate—Healthy Food Attributes Vary Around the World
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Pleasing the Palate—Healthy Food Attributes Vary Around the World

Not everyone agrees on the best methods to lose weight, but nearly three-fourths (74%) of global consumers believe they are what they eat. So what do we look for in the foods that fuel our bodies? While fresh, natural and minimally processed foods are most desirable around the world, not all health attributes are equally important around the globe.

In Asia-Pacific, the importance of food attributes largely mirrors the global average, with a few exceptions. The desire for sustainably sourced ingredients (43%) is higher than in any other region except Latin America (tie). The absence of caffeine is also rated more important in Asia-Pacific (28%) than worldwide (23%).

In Europe, comparatively smaller percentages rate health attributes as a very important influencing factor for purchase decisions. In fact, the number of respondents who say a given attribute is very important is below the global average for 24 of the 27 attributes included in the survey. Only GMO-free products are more important in Europe than globally (47% vs. 43%, respectively).

In Africa/Middle East, the percentage of respondents who say a particular attribute is very important in their purchase decisions is higher than the global average for 20 of the 27 attributes included in the survey. Beneficial ingredients are particularly important to Africa/Middle East respondents, with foods that are high in protein (43%) and fortified with calcium (44%), vitamin (43%) and minerals (40%) considered very important—all above the global average. Sustainably sourced ingredients are less important in Africa/Middle East than globally (26% vs. 35%, respectively). GMO-free offerings are also less important in Africa/Middle East than around the world (39% vs. 43%, respectively).

In Latin America, the percentage of respondents who think a given attribute is very important exceeds the global average for all attributes measured. In fact, the region is more than 20 percentage points above the global average for eight of the 27 attributes. The “less is more” attributes are particularly appealing in this region, including low/no cholesterol (25 percentage points {pp} above the global average), low/no fat (+24 pp) and low salt/sodium (+22 pp). As in Africa/Middle East, food fortification is also more important in Latin America than globally. The region exceeds the global average for the importance of calcium- and vitamin-fortified foods by 21 and 20 percentage points, respectively.

In North America, the percentage of respondents who say a given attribute is very important in their purchase decisions was below the global average for 24 of the 27 health attributes included in the survey. The only attribute that ranked higher than the global average was the absence of high fructose corn syrup, which is above the global average in both absolute and relative importance, cited as very important by 32% of respondents (compared to 26% globally). North Americans shared identical sentiment with global respondents when it came to foods with whole grain (30%) and portion control (27%) attributes.

Other findings from Nielsen’s recent Health & Wellness report include:

  • Generational differences in how we view health attributes in our food.
  • Consumers’ preferred methods for losing weight.
  • A review of purchasing trends from 2012 to 2014 in health food categories.

For more detail and insight, download Nielsen’s Global Health & Wellness report.

About the Nielsen Global Survey

The findings in this survey are based on respondents with online access across 60 countries. While an online survey methodology allows for tremendous scale and global reach, it provides a perspective only on the habits of existing Internet users, not total populations. In developing markets where online penetration has not reached majority potential, audiences may be younger and more affluent than the general population of that country. Additionally, survey responses are based on claimed behavior, rather than actual metered data.