Roughly 52 percent of respondents in The International Food Information Council’s (IFIC) Food & Health Survey 2022 said they followed a diet or eating pattern in the last year — up 13% from the year prior.
The aforementioned increase has come primarily from those under 50 years old, reported Forbes. Results from the March 2022 IFIC survey were weighted by age, education, gender, race/ethnicity, and region to accurately reflect generational trends and best represent the American population (ages 18 to 80). This year, the IFIC also separately analyzed an oversample of consumers ages 18 to 24 to gain additional insight on generational comparisons.
Findings from this year’s survey reflected an uptick in health-motivation by indicating a renewed commitment to wellness related to food in three major areas:
- protecting long-term health including decreasing stress and improving immunity
- weight loss
Respondents were more likely to self-report engaging in behaviors perceived to improve overall health, including the avoidance of artificial ingredients. Weight loss, energy, and stress management ranked among the top of the list of factors influencing food and beverage choices.
THE PANDEMIC’S IMPACT
Many Americans entered March 2022 with a sense of normalcy beginning to return by seeing a light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, yet stress and snacking appeared to remain high.
Some 56 percent of Americans reported feeling “very” or “somewhat” stressed over the past 6 months, while 25 percent indicated “always” or “often” turning to food when stressed, according to the IFIC report.
Snacking frequency has grown significantly, with nearly 75% of Americans now snacking at least once a day, which may be attributed to the increase in stress and time spent at home in recent years. Only a third of Americans are working on managing stress through diet and nutrition changes, while most are turning to other healthful behaviors such as sleep (41 percent), exercise (40 percent), and working on their mental health (30 percent), as noted by Forbes.
Shedding extra pandemic pounds is a driving factor for many, with 30% of Americans indicating weight loss/management as a sought benefit. IFIC reported other health benefits influencing eating behaviors included:
- improving energy (37 percent)
- gut health (29 percent)
- heart health (28 percent)
- sleep (26 percent)
- immune function (25 percent)
HEALTH ON YOUNG ADULTS’ MINDS
Consumer trends reflect these priorities through a strong shift towards natural foods perceived as nutrient-dense options such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. With this comes a shift away from artificial ingredients, including artificial sweeteners, and highly processed packaged goods.
Gen Z’s impact on environmental and social sustainability is likely compounding the move away from processed goods moving forward, as most Americans report being concerned about food waste and opting for goods with less packaging.
While sleep is a top priority of Millennials, Gen Z, and Gen X generations, so is improving their physical appearance and health, as reported by Forbes. An increase in social media may play a part in the rise of diets and eating patterns for Americans under 50, with users being exposed to more viral nutrition content and food trends now more than ever before.