Rising food prices may have more of an impact on food purchases this year, but consumers are still making healthy choices and trying new things, according to the latest Food and Health Survey from the International Food Information Council (IFIC).
The results of IFIC’s online survey of more than 1,000 Americans between the ages of 18 and 80 reveal what drives food and beverage purchases, how consumers define healthy food, how they feel about food safety, and more.
Food prices increase their impact on shopping behaviors
Taste still ranks highest among food and beverage purchase drivers, with 87% of consumers putting it in the top spot this year (up from 80%). But price is a close second, moving up from 68% to 76%. Up from 83% in 2022, 91% of Americans in this year’s survey noticed an increase in overall food and beverage costs, and 72% said it was a major increase (up from 59% in 2022).
In addition, more consumers said food prices had a high impact on their purchasing decisions this year (76%, up from 68%). To deal with the extra costs, nearly half of Americans said they always or often traded down to less expensive products or brands, switched to less-premium or brand-name products, or reduced spending on non-essential items. A smaller number of consumers (28%) chose less healthy food and beverage products as a result of rising prices.
Social media content influences food, diet choices
Consumer food choices are frequently guided by social media. Many Americans (42%) — Gen Z (71%) and Millennials (58%), especially — said they’ve encountered food and nutrition content on social media platforms.
Although most (67%) trust this content, 68% said they’ve come across conflicting information about foods to eat and avoid, including some that caused them to doubt their food choices (60%).
Nevertheless, consumers said food-related social media content encouraged them to:
- Make healthier choices (60%)
- Try new recipes (51%)
- Try new products or brands (42%)
- Reevaluate their relationship with food (28%)
- Start a diet or eating pattern (18%)
IFIC’s survey also uncovered several other strong influences on food choices, including:
- Healthfulness: For 62% of survey participants, healthfulness was an important motivator for their food purchases. Consumers most commonly define healthy food as being fresh (47%), low in sugar (37%), and a good source of protein (33%). When it comes to benefits foods and beverages can provide, consumers are most likely to seek products that help boost energy (40%), manage weight (39%), and support healthy aging (34%).
- Processed foods: More than six in ten (61%) consumers try to avoid processed foods at least sometimes. Consumers with more education and higher incomes were more likely to say they avoid processed foods, and 23% of consumers put “minimal to no processing” among their top five definitions of healthy food.
- Climate impacts: At least for some foods, 35% of consumers said climate friendliness influences their purchasing decisions. Climate concerns are most likely to impact consumer purchases of meat and poultry (62%), fresh fruits and vegetables (55%), and dairy products (50%).
- Social sustainability: Nearly half of Americans (46%) said fair and equitable treatment of the workers who produce, distribute, or serve the food is important when making their purchasing decisions. Consumers commonly used food labels (37%) and manufacturers’ websites (34%) to find information on the treatment of workers.
Consumers want a better understanding of food safety efforts
Seven in 10 consumers expressed confidence in the safety of the U.S. food supply this year, but fewer were confident in the federal government’s (47%) and in food companies’ (44%) commitment to food safety.
Consumers who lacked confidence in food safety cited a belief that the food industry prioritizes profit over safety (55%), too many recalls (40%), and regulations that aren’t strict enough (39%). Many Americans said understanding how the government (36%) and food companies (35%) ensure food is safe as well as stricter safety regulations (36%) would increase their confidence.
For more insights into consumer beliefs and behaviors surrounding food, see IFIC’s full report.