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2022 Food and Health Survey captures latest consumer perceptions

Stress has a substantial impact on the way consumers eat, according to the 2022 Food and Health Survey by the International Food Information Council (IFIC).

Ali Webster, director of research and nutrition communications with IFIC, says thirty percent of consumers surveyed made nutrition or diet changes to help reduce stress levels.

“Looking further at the group of people who said they are stressed and are making changes to their diet and nutrition, we asked them what specific things they’ve been doing to manage or reduce stress,” she says. “The top response is trying to eat healthier, whatever that might mean to them. Cleaning up their diet might be a great way to reduce stress since we know there is a lot of emotion bound up in eating. Focusing more on overall healthy behaviors instead of weight loss was a common response here. We also see that nearly four out of every 10 people making changes to their diet had started following a specific eating pattern or diet.”

More than half of consumers surveyed reported feeling stressed in the past six months. Stress levels decrease by generation with Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X being more likely to report high stress levels than Baby Boomers. This year’s findings tap into the emotional aspect of food choices, with nearly one in four consumers saying they always or often eat when they’re feeling stressed.

Consumers were asked to define healthy food.

“The top choices for consumer-defined healthy food were fresh, a product that is low in sugar, and a good source of protein round out the top three in terms of rank order,” Webster says. “Foods that contain fruits or vegetables, products with a good source of nutrients, natural, and low sodium are some other popular options.”

Webster says the “health halo” around all natural, fresh, and clean ingredients increased in 2022.

“If a product is described as all natural on the front of package that seems to be a signal for healthfulness for many people. The same is true with something being fresh vs. frozen—that’s a consistent finding we have that people really value freshness in terms of health. Frozen option of fruits and vegetables aren’t less healthy but nevertheless this consumer perception persists,” she says. “Clean ingredients are also a big influencer of health for consumers.”

Webster spoke to reporters ahead of the study release on Tuesday.

This is the 17th Food and Health Survey by the International Food Information Council. More than 1,000 Americans between ages 18 and 80 were surveyed about perceptions about health and nutrition; food and beverage purchase drivers; the importance of environmental sustainability, food waste, and social sustainability; eating patterns and diets; health benefits consumers seek from food; how Americans approach sugar consumption; beliefs about food production and food technologies; and views on food safety issues.

Click here for more findings from the study.

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