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From Comber, L.R., Cutler, A.J., and Griffin, P.F., Industry and Market Reviews No. 19, 1993. With permission.

From Comber, L.R., Cutler, A.J., and Griffin, P.F., Industry and Market Reviews No. 19, 1993. With permission.

Table 3.6 Reasons for Lack of Interest in Low-Fat Foods Cited by 42 Respondents in the U.K.

Reason given %

Prefer taste of standard product 33

Not trying to lose weight 29

Never thought about it 7

Healthy as I am 7

Too expensive 5

Follow proper diet 5

Low-fat foods are a "con" 5

Am underweight 2

Diabetic 2

From Cathro, J., Industry and Market Reviews, No. 19, 1993. With permission.

the usefulness of such products. One group claimed that if a low-fat option was provided (and taste was on a par with that of the standard product) then it made sense to try it, since it was likely to be healthier than the standard product and since the consumer was unlikely to be at risk of eating too little fat. Conversely, the second group of respondents claimed that this was actually moving away from a healthy balanced diet and that if traditional treat items started to appear in low-fat form, consumers would simply eat more of them. Respondents agreed that if the move toward low-fat foods incorporated foods traditionally perceived as unhealthy, then consumers as a whole would tend to eat more of the unhealthy items. In this case, the benefits of low-fat foods were not likely to be apparent. Finally, the cost of low-fat foods was also criticized for being unnecessarily high. Clearly, there still exists the view that if a product is promoted as containing less of an ingredient, in this case fat, it should cost less than the standard product. That a food manufacturer may have incurred higher formulation costs to develop an acceptable reduced-fat product is an issue that many consumers seem unaware of and indeed probably have little interest in.

A survey of European consumers funded jointly by the Pfizer Speciality Chemicals Group and the Calorie Control Council in 1991 showed similar trends in Europe to those identified in the U.K. study described above (Wagner, 1992). The research showed that the driving motivation among Europeans for consuming low-fat products was, generally, to stay in better overall health, although this reason stood out less prominently from others than it did in a comparable U.S. study by the same parties. For example, in France, reducing fat ranked higher than staying in better health, and reducing calories, maintaining weight, and maintaining an attractive physical appearance were ranked nearly as high as better overall health. In general, the findings suggested that the message of "reducing fat" had a stronger appeal to European consumers than Americans.

Fat is also the number one dietary worry of U.S. consumers according to several state-specific and national surveys (Bruhn et al., 1992; Buss, 1993; CPQ, 1991; Gallup, 1990). For example, in a 1991 poll by the Food Marketing Institute, 42% of respondents ranked fat as the most important nutritional concern (Buss, 1993) while a California survey showed that as many as 62, 61, and 58% of respondents considered total fat content, saturated fat content, and cholesterol as "very important" in food selection (Bruhn et al.,

1992). It appears that the U.S. consumer is responding not to an old-fashioned urge to "diet," but to broader health recommendations by major groups such as the National Cancer Institute and the American Association of Diabetes that Americans reduce their fat intake to an average of 30% of total calories from the current average of 36% (Buss,

1993). However, the findings of a 1991 National Eating Trends study by the NPD Group, a marketing research firm, also suggest that Americans' concerns about fat and cholesterol intake may be declining. Other studies show similar attitudes toward sugar, salt, and calorie intake. It should be stressed that this does not necessarily mean that healthful diets no longer interest people, but rather that the hysteria has subsided. The fact that the food supply now offers choices that make people feel more comfortable about cholesterol and fat is cited as one of the reasons for the drop in consumer concern regarding fat intake.

Clearly, consumers' concern and knowledge of the link between fat intake and health have heightened their receptiveness to the concept of reduced-fat foods, which in turn has led to increasing demand from food manufacturers for fat replacers.

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