Aligning consumer intentions with behaviors to achieve health goals

By Olivia Brown

- Last updated on GMT

© Ridofranz / Getty Images
© Ridofranz / Getty Images

Related tags Health Nutrition

While many consumers want to improve their health by opting for healthier product choices, key barriers include a lack of trust in retailers, understanding of the nutritional information provided, and perceived availability of convenient options.

This was the key message of a talk delivered at the International Food and Beverage Event (IFE) in London last week by the commercial insights specialists at the Institute of Grocery Distribution (IGD).

Consumer intentions

In a consumer survey conducted by IGD in October 2022, 85% of shoppers responded that they wanted to eat healthier, whether by consuming more fruit and vegetables, drinking more fluids or reducing sugar processed food intake.

Shoppers who paid attention to nutritional content of products were primarily focused on sugar and fat, and sugar ranked as the third most important health factor in deciding how healthy a product was across key categories identified such as cereals, soft drinks and healthier snacking products.

Survey results also indicated that consumers are seeking added health benefits, including added fiber and vitamins, and are drawn to low or no added sugar messaging.

“Unsurprisingly, healthier snacking is the top scoring subcategory," said Hannah Skeggs, senior health and sustainable diets manager at IGD. "Since the introduction of the HFSS [High in Fat, Salt and Sugar] regulations last autumn, there has been an increase in the number of healthier impulse options, as well as the reformulation of impulse products to make them HFSS compliant.

“In addition to healthier snacking, subcategories with a wide variety of low or no added sugar alternatives also score highly. Therefore, NPD that includes reduced sugar options and communicating either on pack or at the fixture where products contain low or no added sugar is likely to appeal to shoppers in these categories."

She noted that consumer’s ideas of ‘health’ were highly individualized and varied significantly.

“Health in food is a broad spectrum," she said. "For some shoppers, they look for an absence of salt, sugar or fat as an indicator of health. For others, added benefits—like gut health—are key indicators, and others look for quality ingredients. Ultimately health is very personal, each of these shoppers was looking for a different thing that they deem ‘healthy’ depending on the category."

Based on IGD’s consumer survey within different retailers, an Asda shopper was found to associate gluten-free products with gut health and ease of digestion, while a Tesco shopper noted the appeal of ‘gut health’ on an Activia yogurt product.

Intention vs. behavior

The talk also underlined the misalignment of consumer’s intentions and resulting behavior as a key barrier to improving public health.

"Despite good work by the industry and government to provide information on nutrition, significant numbers of shoppers still claim they aren’t confident about nutritional advice,” Skeggs noted.

Another IGD survey (ShopperVista, November 2022) observed that 49% of consumers found the nutritional information on pack too difficult to read due to text size or confusing icons. Furthermore, 43% did not believe health claims made by food companies, and 41% noted that frequently changing nutritional advice affected consumer confidence.

IGD noted that effective strategies to activate healthier eating involve creating more convenient options and a greater accessibility to healthier products.

Iceland was spotlighted for its partnership with MyProtein last year, which trialed a frozen ready meal vending solution placed in Fitness First gyms offering meal options containing 20g to 30g of protein for gym-goers.

Huel has also introduced vending machines in train stations and airports, offering convenient nutrition in time-pressured environments where it can be difficult to find a well-balanced meal. 

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