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Health-Minded Global Consumers Put Their Money Where Their Mouths Are
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Health-Minded Global Consumers Put Their Money Where Their Mouths Are

In the wake of New Year’s resolutions, it seems like every other person is actively trying to lose weight. As it turns out, that assumption is right. Fifty percent of global respondents in Nielsen’s Global Health & Wellness Survey indicate they are taking steps to drop a few pounds this year. Among those, 75% are changing their diet. But what specific steps are we taking in our dietary decisions?

Nearly two-thirds (65%) of those modifying their diets say they are cutting down on fats, a decline from 70% reported in Nielsen’s 2011 Global Health & Wellness Survey, and 62% are eating less chocolate and sugary sweets, a percentage that holds steady from 2011. Conversely, more than half of global respondents (57%) are expanding their diets with more natural, fresh foods, up from 55% reported three years ago.

Eating smaller portions is the diet method of choice for four-in-10 global respondents (41%) and nearly as many are choosing to consume fewer processed foods (37%). A low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet has increased in popularity since 2011, rising seven percentage points to 25%. One-in-five (19%) respondents are following another non-specified diet plan, and one-in-10 (11%) are opting for commercial slimming programs like Weight Watchers.

Are Healthy Food Attributes Worth Paying More For?

Consumers believe healthy food attributes are important, but are they willing to pay more for the benefits they provide? The answer is yes—to a degree.

Dividing global respondents into four buckets of spending intent, the highest percentages (among those who rated health attributes at least slightly important) are only moderately willing to pay a premium for foods with health claims—an average of 38% across all 27 attributes included in the study. Globally, spending intentions remained consistent across attribute categories, but regionally, some preferences emerged.

A willingness to pay a premium for health benefits is higher in developing markets than elsewhere. More than nine-in-10 respondents in Latin America (94%), Asia-Pacific (93%) and Africa/Middle East (92%) say they’re willing to pay more for foods with health attributes to some degree, compared with about eight-in-10 in Europe (79%) and North America (80%).

For most attributes, there is also a gap between the percentage of respondents that say a health attribute is very important and the percentage that are very willing to pay a premium. For example, 43% of global respondents say the absence of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is very important in the foods they purchase, but only 33% are very willing to pay a premium for these products—a 10-percentage point difference.

Though Latin Americans lead in their willingness to pay a premium, not all attributes are created equal in this region. For example, more than half of respondents (51%) are very willing to pay a premium for all natural products, but only about one-quarter (27%) are very willing to pay a premium for products with no high fructose corn syrup.

The same is very much true in Africa/Middle East—respondents are most willing to pay for all natural benefits (52%), compared with only 27% that are very willing to pay more for products with no high fructose corn syrup.

Conversely, in Asia-Pacific, all attributes in this region are weighted more similarly, but there still are some differences. The biggest willingness-to-pay gap is also between those very willing to pay for all natural products (43%) and those very willing to pay for products with no high fructose corn syrup (22%).

In Europe, the percentage of respondents willing to pay a premium is below the global average for all attributes. Nearly one-third of European respondents (31%) are very willing to pay a premium for all natural foods, but only 13% are willing to pay a premium for caffeine-free products.

While the willingness-to-pay a premium in North America is nearly identical to Europe’s, all attributes are weighted similarly in this region. The gap between the attributes that respondents are most willing to pay a premium for (GMO-free and organic products, both at 25%) and least willing to pay more for (calcium- and minerals-fortified, both at 17%) is only six percentage points.

The report also discusses:

  • 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 Survey.

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.