US get worst health marks

By Clarisse Douaud

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nutrition United states

Even though Americans are willing to spend money on healthy
products, they are less likely than other nationalities to make
long lasting behavior changes, according to a new report from
Business Insights.

The market analyst surveyed food and drink industry executives and found that looking and feeling good drives consumers more than the actual fear of disease does. The report makes comparisons between attitudes towards functional foods among major developed countries.

Time and again obesity is pinpointed as the number one health concern in the United States, yet it would seem attitudes need an even bigger wake up call to a problem that is more than superficial and has serious disease consequences.

The report reveals the US has the lowest rate of life expectancy and proportionally has the greatest overweight or obese population among the seven major developed countries (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, United Kingdom, US and Japan).

About 64 percent of all US adults are overweight, 30 percent of whom are obese, according to the US Food & Drug Administration. This has been identified as an indisputable contributing factor to the nation's high death rate from heart disease.

According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease claimed 910,614 lives in 2003 - or 37.3 percent of all deaths. This is almost double the entire death toll for all forms of cancer in the same year.

The report also concluded the US has the least healthy attitude towards health of the major developed countries, while Japan ranks as the healthiest country in this category.

"The broad range of functional products on offer in the US shows that there is a wide interest in healthy food, supported by the interest in exercise,"​ reads a summary of the report. "Nevertheless fact that the prevalence of obesity is highest in the US among major developed nation's shows that many Americans are happy to spend money on addressing the problems but less prepared to modify their behavior."

This perhaps explains the trend of overlapping health and indulgence that BI identifies in its report. The market analyst specifies this has manifested itself particularly in the addition of new and exotic functional flavors in the market.

Diet products accounted for the most new product development in North America at 84.0 percent, followed by 76.9 percent in Europe.

This concurs with statistics from Euromonitor International which in the past has reported that the US accounts for 63 percent of the world slimming products market, worth $4.34bn at retail. The world market size is estimated to be $6.84bn.

And according to BI, the North American market is also ripe for innovation in guilt-free products, with 9.6 percent of all healthy launches being in the segment.

The survey component of BI's research involved 142 respondents, with just under 70 percent of these drawn from food and drinks manufacturers. The rest were retailers, packaging and ingredients companies and consultants.

The author also conducted an search of secondary material and conducted interviews. Epidemiological data was sourced from BI's healthcare analysis team.

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