RESEARCH

Stunning report: Consumers know better than health experts
25 February 2015

A stunning new Nielsen report reveals that consumers not only know how to solve the obesity crisis but are already taking action. Nielsen surveyed 30,000 people in 60 countries and the results are quite startling. The report is a treasure trove for advertisers, agencies and industry associations.

Consumers are not stupid and being manipulated by the food industry as claimed by public health activists. They are well informed, know what to do and are doing it. Interestingly consumers in developing countries are better informed about healthy eating than those in North America and Europe.

Consumers globally have a formidable knowledge of health attributes in food and furthermore are willing to pay a premium for products with those attributes.

Health Attributes Influencing Purchase Decisions

Respondents were asked to rate 27 different health attributes from Very Important to Not Important when making a purchase decision.

- Globally 40% of consumers rate being made from vegetables/fruit as very important when making a purchase decision. The responses varied across the regions with 55% in Latin America, 47% in Middle East Africa, 40% in Europe, 39% in Asia Pacific and 32% on North America.

- There was also good knowledge of the importance of certain nutrients. Globally 36% of respondents rated High in Fibre as very important when making a purchase decision. This rating varied from a high 59% in Latin America, which was double that in Europe with 28%.

- A surprising result was the huge difference of awareness of the health attributes in the regions:

      In Latin America knowledge of the importance of the attributes was above the global average for
      all 27 attributes

      In the Middle East/Africa knowledge was above the global average for 21 of the 27 attributes

      In Asia Pacific knowledge above the global average was 13 out of 27

      For both Europe and North America knowledge was below the global average for 26 of the 27
      attributes.

Consumers Will Pay a Premium for Healthy Food

A significant finding is that consumers are willing to pay more for healthier food. In keeping with the finding that health attributes influence purchase decisions, consumers in Asia-Pacific, Latin/America and Middle East/Africa are more willing to pay a premium than their counterparts in Europe and the US.

- In Latin America consumers are willing to pay a premium greater than the world average on all 27 health attributes. The number of consumers who are willing to pay is high – ranging from 51% to 27% depending on the attribute.

- Asia-Pacific consumers were also above the world average on all 27 attributes with a range of 43% to 22% depending on the attribute.

- In the Middle East/Africa consumers were willing to pay a premium for food greater than the world average on all but one of the 27 health attributes. The range was 52% - 27%.

- Both Europe and North America were less likely to pay a premium for healthier food. Both were below the world average on all 27 health attributes.

The proportion of consumers prepared to pay a price premium for healthier food was considerably lower in the US and Europe. For example;

- 46% of consumers in Latin America are prepared to pay more for food high in fibre. In Middle East/Africa 40% will pay more and in Asia-Pacific 32% will. But in North America only 22% will pay more and in Europe a low 17%.

- 44% of consumers in Latin America will pay a premium for food low in salt. In the Middle East/Africa the figure is 32% and in Asia-Pacific is 28%. But in North America it is 22% and in Europe a very low 16%.

Discussion

The Nielsen report is essential reading for food marketers and those with an interest in the obesity issue. This ALERT reviews only part of the findings. As it is a free report further details on markets are required for food marketers who wish to develop marketing strategies. No doubt Nielsen will provide this for a charge.

An important factor that emerges from the report is the greater knowledge of health attributes in food by consumers in Latin America, Middle East/Africa and Asia-Pacific than in the ‘sophisticated' markets of Europe and North America. Furthermore they are willing to pay more for healthier food. This is the opposite of intuitive thinking and what we have been told by public health authorities.

Europe and the US tend to be the centres where global policy on obesity is determined. We wonder whether they are being influenced by local attitudes rather than taking a global perspective.

The report is available on various Nielsen country websites or on this link
www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/reports/2015/we-are-what-we-eat.html

Some country sites also have short subsidiary reports.

Glen Wiggs
Director Foundation for Advertising Research

© The Nielsen Company.



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