Consumers increasingly committed to better diets, ­but believe they’re less healthy, dunnhumby finds

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There has been a significant increase in the number of consumers making healthy eating a priority, and the majority of people say they plan to eat more healthily over the months ahead, according to a new global study from the leading customer science company dunnhumby.

The ‘Healthy, Wealthy & Wise’ report – which evaluated shopping habits of seven million consumers and surveyed more than 8,000 people in eight countries – reveals that approximately a quarter of shoppers globally are very committed to health based on their purchasing behaviour, increasing by 38% since 2009.

The research also indicates that this increased spend on healthy food is likely to have been prompted by growing concern about unhealthy lifestyles – with more than 70% of people globally believing they are less healthy than previous generations.

The report also shows that customers believe what you eat affects how you feel (89% agreed or strongly agreed), associate ‘natural’ with ‘healthy’, consider fresh fruit and vegetables as healthier than frozen equivalents and want locally sourced foods wherever possible. The study also sheds light on what guides consumers’ choice of healthy foods. In the UK, consumers have identified checking the ingredients list, checking the nutritional information and prior knowledge of the product as the key factors helping them recognise healthy items.

Attitudes towards labelling was also analysed by the report, which reveals that although more than half of consumers in the UK claim they typically check the nutrition labels on food, and 44% say that labels help them identify healthy products, only 34% trust food labels. This suggests that in addition to labelling, brands should focus on influencing health through a mix of marketing and other tactics.

Julian Highley, global director of customer knowledge at dunnhumby, said: “Healthy eating has clearly climbed the agenda among consumers in the UK and across the globe over the last five years. It is vital that brands and retailers cater to this desire for healthy options through the development of new products and the creation of store layouts that assist shoppers in their healthy eating aims.”

David Wood, group managing director health & wellness, Tesco, said: “It’s encouraging that customers are increasingly seeking both healthier options and looking to food retailers to help guide them in their choice. That’s why making it ‘easy’ for customers to lead a healthier lifestyle is central to our plan, from being the first major UK retailer to introduce shop floor nutritionists, to removing sweets from checkouts and simply making healthier product choices more prominent in-store.”